MANILA - Malaysia is keen to invest in Mindanao, its Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday, as he gave a positive outlook on development in the region following the ratification of the law that will establish a more powerful self-governed Bangsamoro region.
Mahathir, who is in Manila on an official visit, said Malaysia would look at infusing investments in Mindanao as the long-restive south faced a transition to the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“We must be helpful, we are close by, we are neighbors. Whatever happens in southern Philippines affects Malaysia. We want southern Philippines to be stable, peaceful, and we can then find opportunities here as much as we can help in contributing towards development through maybe foreign direct investment,” said Mahathir in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News’ Cathy Yang.
He cited how conflict stunts a country’s growth,and that energizing the economy could curb violence.
“A country at war, a country that is unstable will never grow, will never develop… We welcome peace wherever it happens and we think that in the case of Mindanao, it is now able to make use of opportunities to grow that part of the Philippines,” said the Malaysian leader.
“And that I think when the economy is doing well, the tendency for violence is much reduced,” he added.
He said the Philippines may look at “models” -- how other countries uplifted conflict-stricken regions -- in helping Mindanao progress.
“Now the southern Philippines is a special area where because of the violence, it has not been able to develop. Look at other areas where the situation is quite similar and adopt this way of developing their country that has succeeded in other countries,” said Mahathir.
Malaysia has been supporting the Mindanao peace process, facilitating talks between the Philippine government and the then secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2001. At one point, it deployed peace keepers in Mindanao while talks were ongoing.
Negotiations bore fruit in 2014, when the 2 sides signed a comprehensive peace agreement. In July last year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the pact’s enabling measure.
The law was ratified following a plebiscite in January, and the transition committee, which includes MILF leaders as members was constituted last month.