Mindanao enjoys great economic potential.

By Rexcel Sorza, IOL Correspondent

ILOILO CITY, Philippines, June 24, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – In a bid to encourage investors from other parts of the Philippines and abroad to put in their money to maintain the growth of Mindanao’s economy and speed it up, Businessmen in the area are holding a meeting there next week.

Dr. Jainal Hamad said local businessmen would again pitch in the “Fourth Autonomous Region in Muslims Mindanao Business Congress” scheduled for June 28-29 in Tawi-Tawi province on the investment opportunities in the region.

“We would tell them that they can do business in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) because many parts of the region remains to be very peaceful and very conducive to doing business,” Hamad told IslamOnline.net Thursday, June 23.

Hamad is the governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the region, which is organizing the business summit with the local government of Tawi-Tawi province and its capital town, Bongao.

He said that investors might opt to put their money in businesses in Tawi-Tawi, “which is the most peaceful province in the ARMM.” It is has a strategic location because it is very close to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia, he also pointed out.

Growth

Hamad added they would tell some 300-500 local and foreign investors from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and even the United States and Europe that Tawi-Tawi is a good site for eco-tourism business.

“You know we have probably one of the world’s best dive sites,” he told IOL. If not eco-tourism, he added, investors wanting to put their capital in Tawi-Tawi could go into its seaweeds and aquamarine industries.

According to the Mindanao Economic Report 2004, produced by the Mindanao Economic Development Council, the island’s “economy consistently showed remarkable resilience brought about by the strong support of the agriculture and services sectors.”

Mindanao’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors posted a growth of 3.8 percent.

Mindanao’s exports to Indonesia grew by 96.89 percent in 2003, $12.5 million, than in 2002, $6.4 million. Export to Malaysia for the same period also grew by 6.3 percent.

Mindanao’s value of exports grew by 14.07 percent last year than in 2003. Exports in 2004 were valued at $1.4 billion while in 2003 it was $1.2 billion. Its major exports are coconut oil, banana, tuna, pineapple, iron ore agglomerates, pineapple juice concentrates, rubber, nickel ores, and desiccated coconut.

A number of new investments continued to pour in Mindanao, according to the Mindanao Economic Report 2004, with registered projects shooting up by 38.1% in 2004 and targeted to generate 7,243 jobs.

Total value of these registered investments reached P7.81 in 2004 or a 279.6% growth from P2.06 billion in 2003.

Peaceful

Bongao town Mayor Albert Que told IslamOnline.net Thursday, June 23, that the Muslim Mindanao region is not only made up of Basilan and Sulu provinces, where there have been high-profile crimes. “We would tell them many parts of ARMM are peaceful.”

He added fresh capital would further improve their town’s economy and that of the province and the region as well. “This would mean new jobs for our people and revenues for the improvement of the delivery of basic services to them by our local government.”

The forthcoming two-day conference will have sessions on various issues and concerns related to business and investment growth in the region such as transport infrastructure, educational reforms, telecommunications, seaweeds production and marketing, governance and cross-border trading.

Hamad said they hope to discuss vital issues and concerns that hinder efforts from the business community, recommend required programs and policies that will motivate and accelerate the interest of local and foreign businessmen to invest in the ARMM.

They also hope to provide venue for possible collaboration between the members of the ARMM Business Council and investors from other areas. The business summit has a theme “Bridging Business, Doing Business Towards Prosperity.”

Hamad expressed optimism that like the previous business congresses, the fourth would yield positive results.

The first three congresses resulted in the passage of Regional Economic Zone Authority law that gives incentives and tax holidays to new investors in the region. The Halal industry also got a boost and business licenses could now be easily processed through the Regional Bureau of Investments.

The congresses also resulted in helping “existing companies” to expand, and closer collaboration between the government and private sector to foster, according to Hamad.

The Mindanao Economic Development Council expects the economic growth in Mindanao to improve this year given “the positive developments in the tourism, foreign trade transactions and agriculture sectors as the main drivers of growth.”