COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Business confidence is still up in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as new investments hit more than P863 million early this year, the ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) announced Monday.

A P741.8 million nickel ore mining project in Panglima Sugala, in Tawi-Tawi Province and a P121.25 million petroleum depot project also in the same province were among those listed by the RBOI Management Committee as being readied for final approval from its Board of Directors.

"With the recent incident in Maguindanao, this is a welcome development which shows that business players are still bullish about Mindanao," said Sec. Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

The nickel ore mining project is estimated to produce 1,000,000 metric tons of ore per year, while the petroleum trading project will have a holding capacity of 7.6 million liters after the completion of its infrastructure and facilities.

Antonino explained that with genuine peace in place, Mindanao has the capacity to accelerate its growth and develop much faster than the rest of the country.

Mindanao's contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013 is 14.32 percent, ahead of Visayas' 12.57 percent, which translated 0.9 percent contribution to the 7.2 percent domestic GDP growth recorded by the country in 2013.

"It is undeniable that peace is a precursor for growth and development, and that Mindanao could generate a much higher growth rate if lasting peace is achieved by the island-region and its people," she added.

Antonino said that while we seek justice for the Maguindanao incident, we must also be determined to pursue development.

Atty. Ishak Mastura, chair of the ARMM RBOI announced that a potential multi-billion peso logistics center in the Port of Polloc in Parang, Maguindanao is also being eyed by several investors who are currently receiving support from the ARMM RBOI and the officials of the Port of Polloc.

He added that his department is also processing investment projects in Maguindanao particularly in the establishment of oil palm and banana plantations, and the creation of additional capacities in renewable energy, specifically biomass power plants.

During the BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders Conference held in October last year, a leading Malaysian company expressed interest to supply oil palm seedling to Maguindanao, while discussions were also conducted to establish connectivity between the Port of Labuan in Malaysia and Port of Polloc.

BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, while IMT-GT stands for Indonesia Malaysia Thailand Growth Triangle. Both economic groupings were formed with the goals of promoting trade, investment, and tourism in less-developed states and provinces in the ASEAN sub-groups.

"As we push for a more investment-friendly ARMM, we must prioritize peace and infrastructure development in order for the region to play its strategic role in the BIMP-EAGA, in the greater context of the ASEAN integration," said Antonino.

She added that with the collaboration of both private and public sectors, Mindanao and its people will continue to pursue sustained peace and will ensure that public and private investments across the region will continue to accelerate and deliver progress and transformation particularly among the region's conflict-affected areas.
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