Aquino promises investors Mindanao 'transformation'

By RG Cruz,

Posted at May 11 2014 11:14 PM | Updated as of May 12 2014 06:52 PM

President Aquino is welcomed by Burmese in traditional attire upon arrival at the Nay Pyi Taw International Airport in Yangon on Saturday. Aquino will join fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders for the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar. Photo by Benhur Arcayan, Malacañang Photo

MYANMAR -- President Benigno Aquino III invited investors from Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to a trade fair in Davao City, promising the transformation of Mindanao now that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro has been signed.

Aquino made the invitation during the 10th Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit at the sidelines of the 24th ASEAN Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

“I take this opportunity to urge member-countries to send their delegations to the 2nd BIMP-EAGA IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders Conference, and to help generate participation from other countries outside the sub-region," Aquino said, noting that the fair will showcase trade and industrial opportunities in the food, agri-based, fisheries, handicraft, and tourism sectors, particularly those involving SMEs.

"This conference is especially promising, as we foresee positive transformation in our island of Mindanao now that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro has been signed," he said.

The Philippines put forward opportunities for Mindanao development and its enhanced participation to BIMP-EAGA, which is being eyed to serve as a platform to bring the Bangsamoro people into the mainstream of international trading.

The three decades-old secessionist movement of Muslim groups in Mindanao have reportedly been a deterrent to investments, and subsequently progress in the poverty-stricken region. The CAB, the final peace agreement of the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is meant to fix that problem.

This high-level meeting is an annual meeting of the heads of states of four-member countries to discuss developments, assess the accomplishments, and come up with stronger strategies to meet the goals of the sub-regional economic cooperation.

Discussions on the existing economic growth corridors in the BIMP-EAGA also took on connectivity initiatives within the sub-region through establishment of more air and sea routes to enhance linkages with BIMP-EAGA focus areas.

Connectivity is critical in increasing tourist arrivals and spurring more trade and investments within the sub-region. Among the items reported at the summit were: progress of direct flights between Puerto Princesa-Kota Kinabalu, and the launching this month of the Davao-General Santos-Tahuna-Bitung shipping services between Mindanao and North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Another major project reported to the summit was the initial implementation of the BIMP-EAGA Submarine Terrestrial (BEST) cable project, also known as the BIMP-EAGA rink, which will link the sub-region on a fiber optic technology.