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Biz groups elated with Malabang Duterte event

GOVERNANCE/POLITICS • 23:30 PM Sat Jun 15, 2019
John M. Unson
President Duterte was the second president to visit Malabang in 23 years. (John Unson)

LANAO DEL SUR --- President Rodrigo Duterte’s participation in an Independence Day rite in Malabang town Wednesday gave Lanao del Sur’s investment climate a boost, members of the business sector said.

“While we don’t know what his primary purpose was in visiting Malabang last Wednesday, we are happy because it was significant in terms of showing to outsiders that it is safe now to put up businesses in the coastal towns of Lanao del Sur,” Bai Sandra Siang, owner of a hardware store in Cotabato City, said Saturday.

Siang is an official of the Muslim Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Cotabato City, Inc. whose members are operating businesses in different parts of central Mindanao.  

The economy of Lanao del Sur, covering 39 towns, was badly affected by the bloody May 23 to October 16, 2017 siege of the provincial capital, Marawi City, by combined Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The religious adventurism by the ISIS-inspired Abu Sayaff and Maute terror groups resulted in the deaths of no fewer than a thousand, among them more than a hundred soldiers and police personnel, displaced some 300,000 villagers and left more than a dozen historic centuries-old Meranao dwelling enclaves in Marawi City in ruins.

Meranao leaders in Malabang and nearby seaside towns are as puzzled on the real purpose of Duterte in attending an Independence Day program there on June 12 where he mentioned of his administration’s Bangsamoro peace initiatives in a speech.

Malabang is one of the bastions in central Mindanao of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front whose leader, Hadji Ahod Ebrahim, most known as "Hadji Murad," is now chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM.

Lanao del Sur is one of the five provinces of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that became the MILF-led BARMM.

Duterte’s visit to Malabang Wednesday was hosted by provincial officials led by Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr., who will assume as governor of Lanao del Sur on June 30.

Adiong defeated four rivals during the May 13 gubernatorial race in Lanao del Sur with an overwhelming vote lead.

“We are thankful to President Duterte for honoring us with his presence in Malabang last June 12,” Adiong said Saturday.

The event was jointly organized by the office of now outgoing Lanao del Sur Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong and Malacañang.

For members of the Bangon Marawi Business Chamber, Duterte’s Malabang sortie bolstered domestic efforts to improve the local economy, stymied by the 2017 conflict in Marawi City.

It was the second presidential engagement in the second district of Lanao del Sur since the creation of the province 60 years ago.

President Fidel Ramos was in Malabang in April 1996 to inaugurate then the newly-concreted Cotabato-Malabang Highway, one of his high-ticket projects in the ARMM region that got replaced with BARMM last February as a result of 22 years of peace talks between the national government and the MILF.

“We never even thought that another president will again come to Malabang, one of the ancient Muslim settlements in Mindanao. We are thankful to President Duterte for visiting Malabang,” Adiong said.

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