ARMM Joins Australia Investment Mission In The Wake Of Australian Security Interest In Marawi Crisis

  Aug 5, 2017    

For the first time, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has joined an official Philippine government investment mission and trade delegation abroad.
ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman authorized the chairman of the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI), lawyer Ishak Mastura, to actively participate in the Trade and Investment Mission to Australia from August 6-11, 2017. This is organized by the Board of Investments (BOI) - Manila under the Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (PIPP) program. 
The PIPP is the umbrella platform of all Investment Promotion Agencies in the country, such as the BOI, RBOI-ARMM, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Mindanao Development Authority, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, the various economic zone authorities and the Government Owned and Controlled Corporations involved in investment promotion. 
The Trade and Investment Mission to Australia will make presentations on the Philippine economy and investment opportunities in the country in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. 
Australian investor interest is high in the Philippines because of the shared security environment that necessitates increased partnership and collaborations between the two countries.
Foremost in mind is the Marawi crisis in the ARMM, wherein Islamic State (IS) affiliated armed groups occupied Marawi City with still no end in sight. 
Instead of turning off investors from investing in the country and the ARMM in particular, strategic investors have come forward to offer their help to rebuild Marawi City and provide much needed jobs in the ARMM. 
Neighboring countries are concerned that the Marawi crisis could galvanize IS members from the region, who are returning home from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, to seek sanctuary in Marawi City and its environs. 
This means that investments in building a vibrant economy that can provide jobs to the Muslim population in the ARMM have become a priority as disaffected Muslim populations with long-standing grievances are known to be susceptible to radicalization by IS. 
A recent United Nations study of 43 people who left their countries to become “foreign terrorist fighters” in Syria has found that most came from disadvantaged backgrounds, lacked good education and decent jobs — and saw their Muslim religion “in terms of justice and injustice rather than in terms of piety and spirituality.”
On this score, a partly Australian-owned telecommunications company has recently registered their Php 3 billion investments with the RBOI. 
TierOne Telecommunications, Inc. intends to put up solar-powered and self-contained towers with their own with satellite uplink in order to have spectrum coverage even in the remotest communities in the ARMM. Eventually dedicated fiber optics cable will be deployed as required by increasing density of use. 
"We invested in the ARMM because we recognize that there is a huge business opportunity in underserved markets. The turmoil in Marawi City has not deterred us because we know based on the experience of other countries that are even more conflict-affected than ARMM, such as the failed state of Somalia in Africa, that telecommunications can continue to operate and thrive in such environment and earn profits because of the service it provides to the communities," said Jonathon Bentley Stevens, the Australian President and Chief Executive Officer of TierOne.
RBOI chief Ishak Mastura said the timing of an investment mission to Australia is indeed appropriate. "The Australian newspapers are full of stories and opinion columns that are referring to the Marawi crisis as the IS presence at their doorstep due to the proximity of Mindanao, particularly to Darwin in Northern Australia," said Mastura. 
"At the same time there is increasing public call for Australia to be more involved in Mindanao in all spheres of activity from security to the economy. So we want to take advantage of such high public awareness in Australia regarding Marawi and the ARMM," added Mastura. 
Australia is the only other country aside from the United States that has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Philippines. The SOFA allows Australian troops to be deployed in Philippine soil, while permitting Filipino soldiers to be trained or to obtain military schooling in Australia for months. 
On his part, ARMM Regional Governor Hataman wants Australia to invest in agriculture, particularly the cattle industry, since Australia has a well-developed Halal industry revolving around the supply of Halal meat to the Middle East. 
"We can raise cattle cheaply in the ARMM or we can import them from Australia and process them into Halal meat products to be re-distributed around the region since ARMM and Mindanao are geographically at the heart of Muslim Southeast Asian countries, who all belong to the BIMP-EAGA or the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine East ASEAN Growth Area," said Hataman.