Locals help boost investment climate in Bangsamoro region

By Marifi S. Jara, Mindanao Bureau Chief

INVESTMENTS in the Bangsamoro region are picking up this year — following a slump in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and administrative adjustments under the transitional government — with almost P2 billion worth of new projects sealed last week and at least another P1.4 billion expected from planned ventures.

Two companies were awarded a certificate of registration on Aug. 18, signaling their formal start of operations and entitlement to fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, the Regional Board of Investments (RBoI) said on Friday.

Al-Muzafar Agriventures, Inc. (AMAVI) is pouring in P950 million for a 1,000-hectare Cavendish banana plantation in Maguindanao, while ES Maulana Global Ventures Co., Inc. (EMGVCI) is investing P998 million for an oil and gas exploration project in the Liguasan Marsh and the Sulu Sea.

“Our investments will surely generate an inclusive employment to those who are former combatants, less educated and less fortunate people in the region to help them live well,” AMAVI Board of Trustee Michael Abas Kida said during the ceremony.

EMGVCI Chief Executive Officer Datu Esmael Maulana, for his part, said their venture “could generate an employment from 2,000 up to 3,000 workers directly from the community with or without education.”

EMGVCI is also planning a poultry project worth around P100 million, according RBoI Chairman Ishak V. Mastura.

The other proposed investments are a P300-million tourism complex in Cotabato City, a cornstarch manufacturing in Lanao del Sur, a banana plantation in Lamitan, and a P1-billion oil and gas exploration project by a company under former Sulu governor Benjamin T. Loong.   

“Considering the vast potentials of BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), the certainties and more stable peace and order situation now in the region, this investment of local players would influence regional investors and eventually put confidence to encourage national and even global investors to come in,” Mr. Mastura said.

In an earlier interview, the RBoI head said there were “hardly” any new registered investments in 2020, with the most significant being a P14-million infusion by Community Wireless and Power Corp. in an internet service project in Lanao del Sur.

He attributed the downturn to restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, although he noted that existing companies in the BARMM fared well in terms of continued operations.

“Based on anecdotal evidence when we visited RBoI registered firms in 2020, most of them continued operations and did not go under, and in fact one Cavendish banana plantation operations in Lanao del Sur reported to us that they even increased their local hiring,” he said.

The new region, formally established in 2019, is also under transition with the Bangsamoro Administrative Code only having been finalized in December 2020.

RBoI’s workforce from the former ARMM, which was also led by Mr. Mastura, was reduced while awaiting final placement within the BARMM organization.

The investment bureau, now an attached agency of the Office of the Chief Minister, will continue to administer incentives in accordance to its devolved powers from the National Government’s Board of Investments.

“Continuity in the business environment and stable investment policies are crucial for investors so the fact that RBoI-BARMM continues to operate without any drastic disruptions or departure from its previous services is a big boon to BARMM investors,” Mr. Mastura said.

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