ARMM to invite Australian investors

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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Regional Board of Investment in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-ARMM) is making a representation to encourage Australian executives on the needed economic investment to shore up development in Armm—one of the key solutions to the root causes of the chronic security problem in the region.

Ishak Mastura, RBOI-ARMM chief, along with other economic and trade officials, flew to Australia on Sunday, August 6, to participate in the week-long trade and investment mission from Monday, August 7, until, August 11.

The week-long event is organized by the Board of Investments (BOI) under the Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (PIPP) program.

Mastura said the trade mission came at a critical time when Mindanao, particularly Marawi City, is facing a crisis.

“The Australian newspapers are full of stories and opinion columns that are referring to the Marawi crisis as the Islamic State (IS) presence at their doorstep due to the proximity of Mindanao, particularly to Darwin in Northern Australia,” he said.

“At the same time, there is an increasing public call for Australia to be more involved in Mindanao in all spheres of activity from security to the economy. So we want to take advantage of such high public awareness in Australia regarding Marawi and the Armm,” he added.

Armm Gov. Mujiv Hataman said they are encouraging investment in agriculture, particularly in the cattle industry, since Australia has a well-developed Halal industry revolving around the supply of Halal meat to the Middle East.

“We can raise cattle cheaply in ARMM or we can import them from Australia and process them into Halal meat products to be re-distributed around the region since ARMM and Mindanao are geographically at the heart of Muslim Southeast Asian countries, who all belong to the BIMP-Eaga (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine East Asean Growth Area),” Hataman said.

Mastura said the delegation would present the Philippine economy and investment opportunities to the businessmen in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

He said Australian investor interest is high in the Philippines “because of the shared security environment that necessitates increased partnership and collaborations between the two countries.”

“Foremost in mind is the Marawi crisis in the ARMM, wherein IS-affiliated armed groups occupied Marawi City with still no end in sight,” he said.

“Instead of turning off investors from investing in the country and the Armm in particular, strategic investors have come forward to offer their help to rebuild Marawi City and provide much-needed jobs in the Armm,” Mastura said.

To date, the Australian government is active in providing aid in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Australian security is also assisting the government troops in the ongoing effort to flush out militants in Marawi City by sending its AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide surveillance support.

The Australian government also gave $920,000 (P34.5 million) worth of food and other supplies to help alleviate the plight of the displaced residents of Marawi City.

Mastura said neighboring countries are concerned that the Marawi crisis could galvanize IS members from the region, who are returning home from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, to seek sanctuary in Marawi City and its environs.

“This means that investments in building a vibrant economy that can provide jobs to the Muslim population in the ARMM have become a priority as disaffected Muslim populations with long-standing grievances are known to be susceptible to radicalization by IS,” he said.

Citing, a recent United Nations study, Mastura said of 43 people who left their countries to become “foreign terrorist fighters” in Syria has found that most came from disadvantaged backgrounds, lacked good education and decent jobs — and saw their Muslim religion “in terms of justice and injustice rather than in terms of piety and spirituality.” (Darwin Wally T. Wee/PNA)

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