Businessmen concerned about latest Mindanao tension
(The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2015 - 12:00am

Foreign chambers as well as local business groups are very much concerned about the Sunday encounter between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the death of 50-plus members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF).

Obviously, the encounter will derail the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) judging from the withdrawal of Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito as coauthors of the proposed bill that would pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Sen. Bongbong Marcos has likewise suspended the Senate hearings relative to the passage of the BBL.

Several congressmen are also having second thoughts about their support for the proposed bill which, at the onset, has been met with resistance from several sectors claiming the legislation is “not inclusive.”  Calls are also escalating for a probe into the Sunday firefight (which many are now dubbing as the “Maguindanao Massacre 2”) by an independent body – as accusations and suspicions about the complicity of government regarding the botched operation continue.

A DTI official privately confirmed the apprehensions of businessmen about the negative impact of the Mamasapano clash on potential investments in Mindanao. At the international trade conference held in Davao last November, Mindanao received over $85 million worth of investment pledges for future projects in several areas including Maguindanao, while some $64 million in booked sales for various products from exhibitors was recorded.

According to our DTI source, the signing of the Bangsamoro Peace Agreement between the government and the MILF in March last year opened doors for business opportunities in the region, with interest coming not only from the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei/Indonesia/Malaysia/Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area) nations, but also from the US and Europe. The bloody Maguindanao firefight, however, was like cold water that doused the enthusiasm of some foreign businessmen especially with the news quickly spreading online and carried by international news networks.

What happened was certainly unfortunate, to put it mildly, especially in light of the 23rd Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit that the Philippines is hosting again after almost two decades. The series of APEC meetings will go on for the better part of the year with several cities hosting the various side meetings and activities which requires tighter security than usual due to the number of foreign delegates, including the heads of state who will join the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November.

Sources informed us that Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte (who might just join the 2016 presidential derby) was royally miffed that organizers snubbed Davao City and did not include it in the list of host areas that include Clark, Bataan, Tagaytay, Boracay, Cebu, Legazpi, Iloilo and Metro Manila – because of the continued presence of terror groups in Mindanao. While Davao City has one of the best peace and order situations in the country, its identification with Mindanao has created a “fear factor” among foreign delegates due to reports of bombings and kidnappings in the region, resulting in negative travel advisories.




Alphaland dead set in suit against Mercado

Alphaland president Mario “Babes” Oreta confirmed that they are dead set in their P100 million damage suit against former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado for accusing Alphaland of giving a P200-million kickback to Vice President Jojo Binay for a land deal between the Boy Scouts and the company.

The deal is clearly above board, and it was actually Mercado who kept hinting about certain benefits that he should get because he personally negotiated and signed the agreement with Alphaland, Babes Oreta disclosed. Contrary to Mercado’s claim that the BSP got the raw end of the deal, the Alphaland Makati Place project is turning out to be one of the best investments the BSP has ever made because their 15-percent share is now estimated at P3 billion, five times the original investment value of P600 million, Oreta said.

Aside from the damage suit, a criminal case of libel against Mercado would also be personally filed by Alphaland chairman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin once he returns from South America, Oreta said, adding that they are determined to see that Mercado suffers the strongest penalties provided by law for making baseless and malicious accusations without any evidence against the private developer.

PeopleAsia to release special Pope Francis edition

Our PeopleAsia editor-in-chief Joanne Rae Ramirez confirmed that the special Pope Francis commemorative issue would hit magazine stands next week – something that our loyal readers have been anticipating. In fact, the cover photo showing the Pope embracing former street children Glyzelle Palomar and Jun Chura came from photographer Marc Henrich Go who initially sent it for the “Pope & I” segment launched by the magazine that gave readers the opportunity to share their special moments/experiences during the papal visit.

The photo perfectly captured a very emotional moment that underscored the Pope’s message of love and compassion especially for street children like Jun and Glyzelle who were fortunate to be under the care of the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation. The special issue (with a cover story by Joanne and an article on the Pope’s visit by Fr. Tito Caluag) features never-before-seen photos from The Philippine Star photographers and Val Rodriguez.

We’re proud to say that 80-page special Pope Francis edition is a collector’s item that our loyal readers will treasure. Our congratulations to the PeopleAsia team for this great issue!

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