Australian companies eye investments in Muslim Mindanao

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Ishak Mastura, chair of ARMM
Ishak Mastura, chair of ARMM

COTABATO CITY –- Australian investors are keen to pour in capital in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which officials said can be a “vote of confidence” amid the Marawi City crisis.

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chair of the ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments (RBOI-ARMM), said the Australian business interest in the region came after RBOI joined in the recent Philippine Investment Mission and Roadshow to Australia led by the Board of Investments (BOI) – Manila under its Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (PIPP).

The PIPP serves as the BOI’s investment programming platform composed of all investment promotion agencies. The investment promotion agencies made a pitch to Australian investors in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane last month.

In his letter Mastura, Eduard Alcordo, president of the Australia Philippines Business Council APBC), said that there are at least four prospective Australian investments in the ARMM.

One of them is Real Estate Investment Trust (REITs), a firm active in mortgage lending, investment banking, fund management, property investment, and high-tech investment. It has explored the feasibility of developing REITS in the country.

Alcordo has asked one of its members and former executive director of Public Private Partnership Center, Raj Palacios, to contact ARMM with the view of signing a letter of intent (LOI) to invest in the region.

A milk company is interested to put up milk storage facilities in Mindanao, particularly ARMM since Mindanao is nearer to Australia than Luzon. The Sun Valley (HK) Group is the proponent since they run dairy farms in Australia.

Lionel Henderson, the director of Agriculture of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the premier Australian Government funded research organization, was introduced to Mastura during the investments roadshow.

Mastura said the CSIRO would be interested to work with ARMM on this project if it has farmers with access to land, even land not suitable for rice or staple foods. There may even be assistance on funding and grants.

As witnessed by the Philippine investment mission team to Australia, the SR Clean and Green Energy, an outfit whose owners are from Tawi-Tawi Province in the ARMM, signed a LOI to explore future collaborations during the team’s investment mission in Sydney.

The fourth investment is Halal chicken processing for export from ARMM to Muslim Southeast Asian countries, the Middle East and Australia. Australia, a non-Muslim country is among the leading exporter of beef to the Middle East and live cows to Indonesia.

Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman lauded RBOI-ARMM for successfully enticing Australian investors despite the ongoing Marawi crisis.

“The interest of Australian businessmen to invest in the ARMM is a clear vote of confidence in the stability of the region despite the ongoing Marawi crisis, which the security sector has effectively confined and contained to a small area,” Hataman said.

Recently, TierOne, Inc., a partly Australian-owned telecommunications company registered with RBOI its PHP3 billion investments in a third carrier for the region.

Australia is one of the biggest official development assistance donors to the ARMM funding, in particular, the basic educational needs of the region.

Recently, Australia offered to train Philippine soldiers in urban warfare in view of the urban warfare terrain of Marawi City, which used to be the ARMM’s largest city, since Australia is the only country aside from the United States to have signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the Philippines.(Edwin Fernandez/PNA)

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