ARMM expects more investments as ‘peace dividend seeps in’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/20 Nov) – As the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) move closer to forging a final peace pact, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is expecting more foreign investments in the area.

Acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman made the projection Monday as he bared that fresh fruit producer Unifrutti Philippines, Inc. is planning to expand its operation in the impoverished Muslim region.

In a statement, he said that Unifrutti chairman John Perrine has signified plans to expand the company’s operation in Maguindanao province.

Hataman said that Unifrutti is eyeing Talayan town as a banana expansion area as well as site of an oil palm processing venture.

Unifrutti has banana plantations in Datu Paglas town.

Last week, a subsidiary of Del Monte Philippines, Delinanas Development Corp., jumpstarted a P569-million banana plantation business in the town of Datu Abdullah Sangki, also in Maguindanao province.

The Delinanas project, which is targeting at least 1,000 hectares of banana plantation that will be spread to other Maguindanao municipalities, is expected to generate around 3,000 jobs.

“We believe in the capacity of the people of ARMM. We ask for your full cooperation on this project,” Almario Dacuna, land lease manager of Del Monte, said in a report released by the ARMM Communications Group.

On Monday, during the opening ceremony for the month-long celebration of the 23rd founding anniversary of ARMM in Cotabato City, Hataman said that socio-economic development should substantiate the reform agenda being undertaken in the graft-ridden regional government bureaucracy.

“Hindi tama na hanggang reporma at social services lang, itinataguyod nating mas lalo pang mapaunlad ang agribusiness para sa pangmatagalang kapayapaan” (It should not be enough that there are reforms and social services, we should push for agribusiness development that would lead to lasting peace),” he said.

Hataman said the regional government had conducted a series of investment meetings with foreign and local investors to encourage them to locate in the ARMM, with the positive development in the GPH-MILF peace process.

“Ang pagbuhos ng mga dayuhan at local na pamumuhunan ay hudyat ng patuloy na paglakas ng ekonomiya ng ating rehiyon, patunay na may tiwala ang mga mamumuhunan sa investment potential sa ARMM (The coming of foreign and local investments is a sign that the economy of the region is getting stronger, and it proves that investors trust the investment potential of ARMM),” he said.

The peace panels of both parties hope to forge a final peace agreement before the end of the year. Last October 15, they signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañang.

Hataman said the ARMM is hoping that more foreign investments will pour across the ARMM, which also includes the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

An investment forum is set to be held on November 24 in Cotabato City, where the ARMM regional government is seated, with the theme “Philippine-Malaysia investments: Fostering sustainable development in Muslim Mindanao.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)