1st row (sitting) from left. RBOI Chairman/Managing Head, Atty. Ishak V. Mastura, Ambassador of Switzerland to the Philippines, Andrea Reichlin, City Administrator of the City Government of Cotabato, Dr. Danda N. Juanday,MD and Swiss Embassy Human Security Advisor, Martina Schmidt
(COTABATO CITY, March 10, 2016). The Ambassador of Switzerland to the Philippines, Andrea Reichlin, met in this city with businessmen from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) representing various business support organizations and chambers of commerce in the region in a meeting hosted by the ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) at their office.
The Swiss embassy’s Human Security advisor and First Secretary Martina Schmidt accompanied her during the visit.
The businessmen led by the Promotion of Investment Sustainability Organization (PISO), together with the Metro Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Muslim Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kutawato, the Bangsamoro Business Club, including big business investors in the region, such as Lamsan Corn Starch factory, Agumil Oil Palm Milling, Unifrutti Banana Plantation and Matling Cassava Starch Milling, welcomed the Swiss Ambassador in her first visit to the region and to this city.
PISO is the organization of all RBOI registered firms co-convened with RBOI by Edgardo Bullecer of the Unifrutti Group, one of the biggest foreign investors in the ARMM, which invested P3.7 billion in Maguindanao last year in plantations of Cavendish bananas for export, especially to Japan and the Middle East.
Also at hand to welcome Ambassador Reichlin was Cotabato City Administrator Dr. Danda Juanday, former Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) chairman, an active civil society and business leader and proponent of peace and development in the region.
The main topic of the businessmen in their meeting with the Ambassador was how to bring about inclusive peace and development.
The businessmen said that ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman had brought about inclusive governance in the region with the active participation of civil society in consultations and monitoring of regional government projects and policies.
They also noted the pro-active and pro-business policies of Regional Governor Hataman that brought about increased investments to the region.
However, in the peace process particularly with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) they said that they want the dividends of peace to be more inclusively shared with the various disenfranchised groups and communities in the region.
Cotabato City Administrator Dr. Danda Juanday, who was the former chairman of the BDA, the development arm of the MILF, said “The diverse mix of peoples in the region is one of the strengths of the region but this can also be a hindrance to peace and development if one group feels left out, which unfortunately was the impression in the legislative process of enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and probably one of the reasons it failed to pass.”
The businessmen and the various business support organizations expressed their confidence that the climate for investments in the region remains positive and they expect that more investments will come this year to the ARMM.
Last year was the best year ever in terms of business investments in the 25-year history of the ARMM with the RBOI registering P6.5 billion in fresh capital infusions and investment projects.
In January of this year, the RBOI already exceeded their investment target of P700 million for 2016 with the registration of the P1.3 oil-palm plantation project of Gintong Agri, Inc. in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
For his part, lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI chairman and managing head, said that the ARMM and the Bangsamoro people are grateful to Switzerland for their active support to peace and development in the region, particularly in sponsoring the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, a body established in the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF that is set to publicly release its report this March on the issues of “dealing with the past” in the Bangsamoro.
There are an estimated 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines employing around 12,000 people with the one of the biggest and most well-known Swiss brands, food conglomerate, Nestle, operating since 1911 in the country.
Philippines-Switzerland relations were established in 1862, when Switzerland opened its consulate in Manila.
Bilateral trade in 2014 stood at an estimated USD 557 million.
The Philippines and Switzerland recently concluded on March 3 their 7th political consultations in Berne, the political capital of Switzerland, in preparation for the 2nd Session of the Philippine-Switzerland Joint Economic Commission, which will take place in April 2016.