Bangsamoro region sees influx of foreign investors in 2020

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 01 January) — The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is expecting influx of foreign investors in 2020 to further spur its economy, officials said.

In 2019, the new Bangsamoro region generated investments worth P4.1 billion, up almost 40 percent from the P2.5 billion recorded the previous year under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), data from the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) showed.

BARMM replaced ARMM in February following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which created the new Bangsamoro region that was anchored on the final peace agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014 after four decades of armed conflict.

File photo shows a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front plowing his farm inside Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s sprawling headquarters in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, also known as MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, invited investors from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia to set up business in the region.

“BARMM is open for business. We want investors to come and create jobs and income to help us attain our goal of sustainable development and inclusive growth,” Ebrahim said in a statement.

He attributed the growing investment last year to the relative peace prevailing in the region as a result of the implementation of the peace pact.

Ebrahim noted that investors have been taking advantage of the improving business climate in the Bangsamoro, leading to the increase in investments last year.

The region comprises the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi, the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato and 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns.

Cotabato voted for inclusion in the BARMM but has yet to be turned over as it has a pending protest over the plebiscite results.

Owing to the region’s ideal agro-climatic conditions and vast undeveloped fertile lands, Ebrahim dangled agriculture as the major business venture that foreign investors could viably pursue in the area.

In 2019, the region attracted big-ticket investments in cavendish banana and corn production and pineapple and abaca processing plants, RBOI records showed.

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI chair, noted the new Bangsamoro region under Ebrahim’s leadership has been aggressive in promoting the area’s investment potentials.

“As a result of his initial talks with potential investors, the RBOI is expecting more investments in 2020,” Mastura said.

Mastura said investors could also explore the region’s energy potentials, apparently referring to the oil and natural gas deposits in the Ligawasan Marsh, mostly in Maguindanao province.

Last year, Ebrahim traveled to Saudi Arabia and Turkey for investment missions and to improve ties with the two Muslim countries.

He said they are working to ease the process of doing business in the region, which includes the granting of incentives or tax breaks to investors.

The government and the MILF are currently implementing the normalization phase of the final peace agreement called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Under normalization, both sides agreed to decommission the MILF fighters and transform their communities into peaceful and productive economic zones. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)