Palace: US businessmen interested in Mindanao

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2014 04:39 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2014 12:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Wednesday said a visiting US business delegation is interested in investing in Mindanao now that government has signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

President Aquino today received visiting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and a delegation of US businessmen.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the delegation was interested in investing in Mindanao now that the comprehensive agreement on Bangsamoro has been signed. This was a reversal of past attitudes by foreign businessmen who are wary of the security situation in Mindanao.

“I can give you some of the areas where they are looking at the potential areas of investments: car manufacturing, energy, infrastructure in Mindanao, infrastructure on mass transit, and also tourism…. I suppose everybody is interested in investing in Mindanao because it’s really an area where there is a lot of promise," he said.

"Now that we have come to a peaceful agreement with the MILF, many countries have been looking at Mindanao as a potential area for investment. We’ve seen other countries—ASEAN nations looking into Mindanao. And so, United States is also one of the countries who would be interested to look into investments in Mindanao.”

The peace agreement is expected to be institutionalized by the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law which remains a work in progress.

The draft law is expected to be filed before Congress this month. MILF leaders have reportedly expressed concern over the delay.

"That concern is, in a sense, positive because, in the first place, nobody thought that this was going to happen. So, understandably, this is now another expectation na tinatanong kung ano ba ang mangyayari. But we can assure you na committed po ang gobyerno. Talagang binubusisi lang ang draft BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) but the commitment is still we’re going to make sure that this will pass congressional approval," Lacierda said.

During Pritzer's courtesy call, she complimented President Aquino on his leadership and what he has done for the country.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said there were "very productive" discussions during the courtesy call.

"Discussions focused on how to further accelerate bilateral trade and investments between the Philippines and the US. Secretary Pritzker brought a very high level group of businessmen led by Evan Greenberg, chair of the US ASEAN Business Council. This is the first visit in about 20 years of a US Commerce Secretary to the country," he said.