Story by Bong S. Sarmiento
DAVAO CITY—Malaysian companies are now positioning themselves as they look forward to the creation of the Bangsamoro region following the singing of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Har Man Ahmad, senior manager for ASEAN unit and former Embassy of Manila Trade Office (MATRADE Manila) commissioner, said Malaysian businessmen are looking for possible joint venture with local corporations for oil palm and rubber plantations in the Mindanao.
More than 50 Malaysian companies attended the 2nd BIMP EAGA-IMT GT trade fair held recently in Davao City in a bid to forge partnerships with Mindanao investors and from the other participating countries.
The Malaysian government brokered the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“Peace is a very important factor [in putting up an investment],” he said in a press conference,” Ahmad said in a press conference.
A bill seeking the establishment of a new autonomous region in Mindanao to replaces the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has already been transmitted to Congress.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will give the new autonomous region greater political power and control over natural resources in the proposed Bangsamoro region.
According to the oil palm industry profile prepared by the Mindanao Development Authority in October 2011, the country has about 55,000 hectares of land planted with oil palm, 80 per cent or 44,000 hectares of them in Mindanao. For rubber, the island reportedly has 137,000 hectares as of 2011.
A joint Filipino-Malaysian venture in oil palm industry has existed in Mindanao through the Agumil Philippines Inc.
“We [also] want to explore business opportunities through direct supply, distribution or partnerships,” Ahmad said.
BIMP EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, an initiative launched in 1994 to accelerate the growth of less developed areas of the participating countries.
IMT GT stands for Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand Growth Triangle, which was formed a year ahead of BIMP EAGA.
MATRADE Manila Trade Commissioner Nyaee Ayup said they are aggressively promoting the Malaysian products and services closer to the BIMP EAGA market, which they considered as an important sub-region in Southeast Asia.
“Mindanao is a new market to us,” Ayup said.
The major Malaysian companies that took part in the trade fair include Labuan Corp, TNB Remaco and MDS Consultancy Group Sdn Bhd.
The others were Duha Edar Sdn Bhd, Azaib Holdings Sdn Bhd, Ambang Dorongan Sdn Bhd, Millions Star Trading Sdn Bhd, I-Tim Holdings Sdn Bhd, Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd and Adtech Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
The top performing goods traded from the region include coal, seaweeds and agricultural products from Indonesia; tuna, banana and pineapple from the Philippines; timber and palm oil from Malaysia; and petroleum from Brunei.