Mindanao peace process boosts ARMM’s investment climate
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2012 - 11:59am


COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Local officials in Basilan and Tawi-Tawi assured they can also accommodate foreign-funded agricultural ventures the way their counterparts do in the now investments-friendly Maguindanao, where the dividends of Southern Mindanao peace process have started spreading around.

Muslim communities in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao held Tuesday the symbolic rite for the start of the commercial operations of the municipality’s first ever foreign-assisted, P569-million Cavendish banana plantation.

The banana farm being established by the Delinanas Development Corp., a subsidiary of the Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc., will initially employ 866 local residents, company officials said.

“We also have lands for banana propagation. Our barangay folks, the police and the military can protect investors that may come to put up such kind of projects in our province,” said Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, the capital of the island province of Basilan.

Furigay said he and his constituent-public officials were fascinated by Tuesday’s launching of the 500-hectare Cavendish banana farm project in Datu Abdullah Sangki, which is surrounded by enclaves of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The foreign investors responsible for bringing in that project can also come to Lamitan City and try investing in our territory since Basilan is also inside the proposed Bangsamoro region the MILF wants to put up,” Furigay said.

The launching of the banana farm was jointly led by Major Gen. Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Datu Sangki Mayor Acmad Sangki and the Costa Rican operations manager of the multinational firm Delinanas, Miguel Purtugeuz.

Hataman said the negotiations for the coming in of the Delinanas started early this year, just as the government’s peace overture with the MILF started to gain headway.

The Delinanas has already opened up in recent weeks 200 hectares of prime lands in Barangay Tukanalugong for the initial phase in developing a 550-hectare banana plantation in the area.

Hataman said the firm has been assured of its safety in Datu Abdullah Sangki by the town’s inter-agency, multi-sectoral peace and order council.

Hataman said he is optimistic more multinational firms will invest in the ARMM, as a consequence of the crafting by the government and the MILF of the October 15 framework agreement.

The agreement aims to establish a more comprehensive, more politically and administratively empowered Moro-led self-governing region in lieu of ARMM.

Hataman, in an impromptu speech during the launching ceremony, urged the foreign and local incorporators of the Delinanas to also put up banana plantations in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The vice governor of Tawi-Tawi, Hadja Ruby Sahali, said they also have lands suitable for propagation of bananas and exotic fruits.

“Our people and the local government units in Tawi-Tawi do not have problems cooperating as a community to help put up plantations and protect investors too,” Sahali said.

Tawi-Tawi is touted as the ARMM’s most peaceful province.

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in Central Mindanao, the island

Local officials in Datu Abdullah Sangki told reporters the employment Delinanas will provide to local farmers will usher in improvements in the local economy.

“People will have regular salaries. Stores in the surroundings will flourish,” Sangki, the mayor here, said in Filipino.

He said they are grateful to Delinanas for having decided to invest in an area “wrongly perceived” as dangerous to investors. 

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