CAB seen to attract more investments in Mindanao

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Friday, March 28, 2014


A HOUSE lawmaker is optimistic that the signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will draw more foreign direct investments (FDI) in the Mindanao region.

Valenzuela City Representative Sherwin Gatchalian said the peace pact between the government and the MILF will not just be a fertile ground for the much-needed investments but also will pave the way for an environment that will allow economic development to begin.

"Foreign investors need a peaceful and business-friendly environment before they set their businesses in the country, especially in the Bangsamoro region. The challenge for the peace pact is to raise the level of investments in the region," Gatchalian said.

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Gatchalian cited former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who said, "Peace is a necessary precondition for trade, sustained economic growth, and prosperity. In turn, economic stability, and a rising prosperity that is broadly shared—both within and among countries—can foster peace."

The lawmaker is hoping that future investments will revitalize the Bangsamoro region and help foster inclusive growth by generating jobs.

He noted that the poverty incidence among families in the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) in 2012 has amounted to 48.7 percent, up from 39.9 percent in 2009.

Citing a study, Gatchalian stressed that Armm's poverty incidence record is the highest among the regions in the country, even higher that the overall poverty incidence at 19.7 percent.

Initial employment figure in the region this year is at 1.29-million, a slow increase from 1.23 million last year, based on the latest labor statistics.

"The FDIs will increase the region's current employment figure. They will stimulate job creation, boosting the number of employed persons at a faster pace," said the legislator.

Potential FDIs in the region will also help the country as a whole with its energy and power needs.

"Capital from foreign investors will help the Philippines move closer to being energy-independent as it will be used to survey oil and gas deposits in the Liguasan Marsh and the Sulu Sea, among other areas in the Bangsamoro region. FDIs will also give a big boost to the power sector, given the recurring power crisis in Mindanao," added Gatchalian.

However, Gatchalian warned against likely leakage of income from these business pursuits in the Bangsamoro region to the capital and the mishandling of revenue collections.

"We should ensure that there is retention of revenue for the Bangsamoro, that the people in the region will be the ones who will benefit from the income from FDIs, not the ones in the National Capital Region. There should be efficient mechanisms that will keep an eye on how taxes are collected and where they are spent. They should be invested in education, health, and infrastructure," the lawmaker said.

Under the Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing Annex, all of the income from non-metallic minerals such as sand and gravel should go to the Bangsamoro. For revenues from metallic minerals, there is a 75-25 sharing agreement between the Bangsamoro and the central government, respectively. For fossil fuels, there is a 50-50 deal between the two.

Gatchalian added that businesses to be set in the Bangsamoro should follow environmental regulations to guarantee sustainable development.

"Businessmen interested in the region should strictly abide by environmental policies so not only the present generation of people in Bangsamoro will profit from the expected economic boom but future generations as well," he said.

He also said that there should be assurance that indigenous communities will not be displaced.

"The agreement was forged so there can finally be economic development in the region after years of conflict. This development should first and foremost benefit the Bangsamoro people, their interests should be prioritized over foreign businessmen’s. The peace pact will be worthless if they will be displaced," Gatchalian said. (Sunnex)

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