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After a banner year in 2019, BARMM expects more investments in 2020

Economic News • 10:30 AM Thu Dec 19, 2019
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Press Release
RBOI-BARMM chair Atty. Ishak Mastura. (RBOI-BARMM photo)

COTABATO CITY - The Bangsamoro region is set to become a major investment destination in the Philippines as the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) recorded Php 4.1 billion worth of investments in 2019, almost two-fold (80 percent) higher as compared to last year’s Php 2.5 billion, according to the report presented by Shamera A. Abobakar, RBOI Senior Investment Specialist during a recent  RBOI year-end reporting and investment briefing held in Cotabato City.

This year BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim has travelled to Saudi Arabia and Turkey for investment missions and to establish closer economic cooperation with the two countries.  He has also spoken to potential investors from Malaysia and Indonesia and to local investors inviting them to explore the business opportunities in the region.  

“Chief Minister Ebrahim has become BARMM’s top investment promoter”, said RBOI Chairman, lawyer Ishak V. Mastura.  “As a result of his initial talks with would-be investors, RBOI is expecting more investments in 2020”, Mastura added. 

Agriculture is still the top ranked investment opportunity in the region due to ideal agro-climactic conditions and fertile lands available in the region. Other investment priority areas that may push through next year are infrastructure, healthcare, mining, education, energy (natural gas), manufacturing and transportation as potential investors see these industries as feasible in the Bangsamoro region.

With the passage of Republic Act No. 11439 known as the Islamic Banking Act signed into law on August 22, 2019 provides for the organization, regulation and powers of Islamic banks to be established in the country, BARMM is also promoting investments in Islamic banking and finance given that it is the only Muslim-majority region in the country.   Under the law Islamic  banks are treated as universal banks meaning that they can establish business subsidiaries.   While there is an existing Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank that BARMM wants to acquire, the BARMM can also explore setting up its own government-owned Islamic bank thru legislation. Private investors with foreign partners can likewise form Islamic banks.

One way of attracting investment in Islamic banking and finance is thru fiscal incentives. For example, Indonesia’s National Committee for Sharia Finance (KNKS) executive director Ventje Rahardjo said that "Sharia banks still need help, such as through temporary tax incentives, to reach the goal.”  He added that the incentives could boost Sharia bank performance to ensure a level playing field with conventional banks. Ventje said allowing Sharia banks to finance government projects could also boost the banks' portfolios.

While Indonesia still seeks to provide fiscal incentives to Islamic banking and finance, the BARMM through the autonomous region list of the national Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) already provides fiscal incentives to such investors in the BARMM since 2017.  Only in the BARMM can Islamic banking and finance investors enjoy such fiscal incentives thru the RBOI.

In a statement, BARMM Chief Minister Ebrahim said that high investments in 2019 can be attributed to the relative peace the Bangsamoro region is now experiencing brought about by the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which was overwhelmingly ratified by the people last January.

“This can also be viewed that more investors are attracted to investing in the region to take advantage of the improving business climate. We are also doing our best to ease the process of doing business  in BARMM by assisting investors  facilitate their investment needs from a business  plan to reality and most importantly the granting of incentives or tax breaks” Ebrahim added .  

“BARMM is open for business. We want investors to come and create jobs and incomes to help us attain our goal of sustainable development and inclusive growth by establishing the foundation of self-governance through moral governance”, Ebrahim further said.

CM Ebrahim invites Turkish to explore investments in Bangsamoro region

In Chief Minister Ebrahim’s exclusive interview published by Anadolu Agency (AA) website on December 1, 2019 during his trip in Turkey for a speaking engagement at the annual 28th International Congress of Muslim Communities Union in Ankara, he highlighted the priority investments his government wants the international business community to invest in the BARMM.

He said:

“For the international investors, we look for them to firstly embrace agriculture because there are many potentials in agriculture production of agricultural products. So, we want to develop our economy. The base will be more on agriculture so they can. There is mining sector also. Presently we have identified more than 20 types of mines in our area, including nickel, copper etc. Many other metals can be found even gold can be found.  Aside from that there is also the presence of oil and natural gas in certain areas. It is still to be explored further but in one area they try to dig 11 wells to explore and nine of them have come out to be positive for natural gas. Health sector is one of the priorities. We need to build hospitals. But for now, our immediate need is mobile clinics. Because many people in the rural areas cannot reach hospitals. There is no medical facility in rural areas. So, what we need is to reach out to them for the moment. So, we need more mobile clinics in the form of vehicle built in with several facilities. And for the island provinces, we also need a small vessel that will become a mobile clinic for the people in the island provinces”.

2019 BARMM investments

In 2019, RBOI has registered five investment projects in the BARMM. Biggest investor is Lamitan Agri-Business Corporation (LABCO) to engage in Cavendish banana plantations worth Php1.8 billion in Lamitan City, Basilan Province.

Second top investor is JMI Sand and Gravel Truck Services Corporation. The company invested Php1.4 billion in sand and gravel project located in Gang, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Third big investor is Maguindanao  Corn Development (MCD) DSA-1 Corporation which is into modern yellow corn production project costing Php515 million located  in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Wao Development Corporation (WDC) came fourth, investing Php306 million for a new pineapple packing plant in Wao Municipality, Lanao del Sur.

Fifth is Hong Kong Feng Sheng Heritage Philippines Inc. (HK FSH) based in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur investing Php100 million to establish an abaca fiber processing plant.

A total of 2,724 jobs are expected to be created from these projects. This year, the Province of Maguindanao continues to dominate in investment generation, next is Lanao del Sur followed by Basilan Province.

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