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.