Mindanao’s image continues to draw investors away

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 May) — Negative perceptions on the peace and order condition in Mindanao remain a major roadblock that has hampered the entry of more foreign direct investments in the island, an official lamented on Monday.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. said that foreign investors are still wary of putting up investments in parts of Mindanao due to security concerns.

He said that a group of Chinese investors have expressed interest to pour investments in the province but raised fears on the peace and order situation in the area.

“I invited them to visit the province for themselves to see the real situation. If they could come, I’m sure their [negative] perception on the peace and order [in our area] would change,” he said during the regular flag-raising ceremony at the provincial capitol here.

Local officials have long been promoting the agribusiness potentials of South Cotabato, which is also rich in mineral deposits such as copper, gold, silver and coal.

Pingoy, who did not disclose what investment the Chinese businessmen are eyeing in the province, noted that South Cotabato has become known in the global mineral industry because of the Tampakan project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, plans to pour $5.9 billion for the development of the Tampakan copper-gold project, potentially the largest single foreign direct investment in the country.

Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd., China’s largest gold producer and third largest copper producer, has dropped a A$545-million bid to acquire Indophil Resources, an Australian company which has a 37.5-percent interest in the Tampakan project, which is facing an obstacle with the environment code of South Cotabato that bans open-pit mining.

In South Cotabato, the multinational fruit producer Dole Philippines, Inc has also been operating since the 1960s, largely producing fresh and canned pineapples.

Pingoy said efforts to further improve tourism sites would be enhanced to help change foreigners’ negative perception on the peace and order condition.

South Cotabato was chosen as a beneficiary of the Canadian International Development Agency-funded Local Government Support Program to develop an ecotourism highway within Southwestern Mindanao region, he said.

The region consists of the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

Pingoy also said the annual T’nalak Festival of South Cotabato in July would be used anew as an occasion to attract more domestic and foreign investments to the province.

The longstanding armed conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been blamed for the negative image attached to Mindanao, although the conflict is limited to certain portions only, particularly in predominantly Moro areas.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF has resumed early this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)