Philippines’ new region turns to Middle East for investment

Rebels turned troopers finish the basic military training. (AN photo)
Updated 03 September 2019

Philippines’ new region turns to Middle East for investment

  • It is designed to provide enhanced self-governance to the Muslim-majority provinces

MANILA: The interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Murad Ibrahim, told Arab News on Monday that he was encouraging the international business community to consider investing in the newly established region

The BARMM is the new regional and political entity established under a peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government early this year.

It is designed to provide enhanced self-governance to the Muslim-majority provinces. “It is very important for investors to come, in order to create job opportunities and also for the international community to see that something is happening on the ground,” Murad said.

In an interview conducted at his office in Cotabato City, Murad told Arab News that plans were afoot to hold an investors’ forum. “We are just finalizing our development plan.”

When questioned on how they would lure foreign businesses to invest in the region, Murad said that there is now relative peace in the region. “In fact, gradually many investors are now coming here to visit. So, I think it’s because of the situation, we now have relative peace in the area and they’ve also seen the conduct and turn out of the plebiscite (last January). There was overwhelming support from the people,” he said.

Murad also cited the decommissioning of an estimated 40,000 former Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) combatants, the military wing of the MILF, which he also chaired. The process will allow the smooth transition of BIAF members to civilian life.

It is very important for investors to come, in order to create job opportunities and also for the international community to see that something is happening on the ground.

Murad Ibrahim, BARMM interim chief minister

“All of this sends the signal that the situation here is improving,” he stressed, adding that a recent meeting with an official from a Saudi delegation to the region had given him great encouragement.

“He gave his commitment that he will help convince the business community in Saudi Arabia to try to invest in the BARRM. He even asked for our development plan so he can present it to them,” Murad said.

“I could see they are really interested, especially given Saudi shortages of animal feeds. They need suppliers and they’re looking at us as a possible source. We have the potential to produce halal food, too so we can supply halal products as well.”

Last month, Murad led officials at a meeting with Malaysian representatives to discuss the possibility of strengthening development ventures between Malaysia and the BARMM.

Lawyer Wencelito Andanar, Malacañang’s special envoy to Malaysia, accompanied the Malaysian delegation comprising the Malaysian Embassy’s Charge D’Affaires Rizany Irwan Muhammad and Assistant Trade Councilor Irvin Francis, as well as officials of the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry headed by its president, Edward Ling in the two-day visit to Cotabato City.

Murad cited the importance of the meeting, which he said could “elevate the strategic partnership between BARMM and Malaysia from being peace partners to being development partners.”

He told reporters: “Helping BARMM as a brother and a relative is part of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad’s ‘prosper-the-neighbors’ policy.”

Aside from Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, the government of Turkey has also vowed to extend assistance to the BARMM, particularly in its agricultural sector.


Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Updated 57 min 15 sec ago

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

  • The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries
  • The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries

NEW DELHI: A divisive citizenship bill has been signed into law in India, a move that comes amid widespread protests in the country’s northeast that could force the cancelation of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. Protesters say the law would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned to host Abe at a meeting in Assam next week as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
Japan’s Jiji Press reported on Friday that Abe is considering canceling his trip. India’s foreign ministry said it was not in a position to comment on the visit which was originally planned for Dec 15-17.
A movement against immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the resources of the tea growing state and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
Critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.
The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries before 2015.
The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India’s constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. No date has yet been set for the hearings.
The party said the law is “prima facie communal” and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.