Malaysians eye Bangsamoro investment

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 October)—Malaysian companies are looking to invest in oil palm and rubber plantations in the envisioned Bangsamoro region as part of Kuala Lumpur’s continuing support to the peace process, officials said Friday.

Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The parties signed last March the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), their final peace deal after 17 years of negotiations.

The Bangsamoro region will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as envisioned by the CAB.

Har Man Ahmad, senior manager for ASEAN unit and former Embassy of Manila Trade Office (MATRADE Manila) commissioner, said the potential Malaysian investments in the Bangsamoro would help alleviate the plight of its people.

“Peace is a very important factor [in putting up an investment],” he said in a press conference.

Ahmad said that Malaysian investors are eyeing a joint venture scheme with their Filipino counterparts in the possible development of more oil palm and rubber plantations in the Bangsamoro and other parts of Mindanao.

According to the oil palm industry profile prepared by the Mindanao Development Authority in October 2011, the country has about 55,000 hectares of land planted with oil palm, 80 per cent or 44,000 hectares of them in Mindanao. For rubber, the island reportedly has 137,000 hectares as of 2011.

A joint Filipino-Malaysian venture in the palm oil industry has existed in Mindanao through the Agumil Philippines Inc.

At least 51 Malaysian companies are currently here for the 2nd BIMP EAGA-IMT GT trade fair in a bid to forge partnerships with Mindanao investors and those from the other participating countries.

“We [also] want to explore business opportunities through direct supply, distribution or partnerships,” Ahmad said.

BIMP EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, an initiative launched in 1994 to accelerate the growth of less developed areas of the participating countries.

IMT GT stands for Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand Growth Triangle, which was formed a year ahead of BIMP EAGA.

Mindanao and Palawan are the focus areas of the Philippines under the BIMP EAGA initiative.

MATRADE Manila Trade Commissioner Nyaee Ayup said they are aggressively promoting the Malaysian products and services closer to the BIMP EAGA market, which they considered as an important sub-region in Southeast Asia.

She noted that Mindanao offers a lot of opportunities, especially that the government and the MILF have reached a final peace agreement.

“Mindanao is a new market to us,” Ayup told reporters.

The major Malaysian companies that took part in the trade fair include Labuan Corp, TNB Remaco and MDS Consultancy Group Sdn Bhd.

The others were Duha Edar Sdn Bhd, Azaib Holdings Sdn Bhd, Ambang Dorongan Sdn Bhd, Millions Star Trading Sdn Bhd, I-Tim Holdings Sdn Bhd, Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd and Adtech Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

These companies represent various sectors from food and beverages, health and beauty products, repair and maintenance technical services and consultancy, among others.

“There are a lot of trade potentials in BIMP EAGA, which member countries can explore given their vast natural resources,” Ayup said in a statement.

The top performing goods traded from the region include coal, seaweeds and agricultural products from Indonesia; tuna, banana and pineapple from the Philippines; timber and palm oil from Malaysia; and petroleum from Brunei. (Bong S Sarmiento/MindaNews)