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The proposed establishment of a Picong Freeport, Hajj Terminal and Agro-Industrial Zone (PFAEZ) gets support of key local officials and regional government agencies from Northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), following the series of consultations conducted by the Mindanao Development Authority early this month.

Picong Municipality Mayor Alinader Balindong said that the proposed establishment of economic zone will help attract investors to locate in an area where facilities for processing and manufacturing is centralized.

The PFAEZ envisions an optimized logistics network within the Northern Mindanao and Bangsamoro Development Corridor. It puts together in one location the international and domestic gateways, food processing, and manufacturing industries.

“Better access to the ports means easier movement of goods and more investments coming in for our municipality, which will consequently provide more employment to our people,” Balindong said.

The Local Development Council of Lanao del Sur is eyeing to have a combination of manufacturing and agricultural export processing zone, envisioning Picong to become the center of halal processing in the country.

“This proposed development will greatly help improve the peace situation in the mainland ARMM, with all the opportunities that it will be bringing in for our communities,” said Engineer Baulgan Manalocon of the Regional Planning and Development Office of ARMM.

According to him, Picong is a strategic location given its proximity to major growth areas such as Iligan, Pagadian and Cotabato cities.

“Under the Mindanao Development Corridors strategy, we intend to provide interventions that are also responsive to the context and aspirations of the Bangsamoro. While the reconstruction of Marawi is urgent, its long term development should not be a stand-alone initiative, but rather as part of a bigger picture,” said MinDA Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto.

MinDA in partnership with Philippine Ecozone Authority has been conducting consultation rounds for PFAEZ to introduce the project to the stakeholders and gather inputs on how it can be further integrated in the investment and development plans of the concerned agencies. The consultation was attended by the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Picong, Provincial LGU of Lanao del Sur, representatives of DTI regions IX, X, and ARMM; DA Regions IX and X; NEDA IX, RPDO-ARMM, DAF-ARMM, RBOI-ARMM, REZA ARMM, Bagong Marawi Chamber of Commerce Inc., Pacaramon Cooperative, Masaganang Farmers Agri-Coop, Al Hejra Farming and Marketing, Al-Sahara Coop, PiLA Cons-Coop, Kalang Kapansa Bangco Farmers Agri-Coop, and Ompongan o Gomagalbek sa Picong Rural Workers Association.

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