Business Forum in Kuala Lumpur to Boost Investments in Mindanao

2 December 2012 – The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reported that the Mindanao Business Networking Forum conducted by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Embassy on November 29 has generated significant interest among Malaysian businessmen and is expected to lead to sizeable investments in the region.

Around 150 participants attended the forum at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel, including MinDA Chairman Luwalhati Antonino, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Vice Chairperson Hadja Bainon Karon and some 45 Mindanao-based businessmen and government officials.

Joining them were some 70 Malaysian potential investors and government officials led by Malaysian Ministry for Trade and Industry Deputy Secretary General for Trade Mohd Ridzal Sheriff, Putrajaya Chamber of Commerce President and concurrently Malay Chamber of Commerce Deputy President Dato' Hj Mohammed Alayuddin Hj Hasan and Lembaga Tabung Haji Chairman Tan Sri Dato Sri' Abu Musa Mohamed Nor.

The forum is the first-ever international investment forum for Mindanao after the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement.

"At the signing last month of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Najib Razak both underscored the need for peace dividends to be felt right away by the people in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," Ambassador Malaya said.

"Our undertaking today, together with many other similar initiatives, underscores the commitment of the Aquino Administration to bring the fruits of development to the peoples of Mindanao – the Muslims, Christians, Lumad indigenous peoples and many others who form part of the wondrous mosaic of one Filipino people. In this manner, we can unlock the entire Mindanao's full potentials and make it the newest "front door" to the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). It is high time that Mindanao no longer be a drag to adjoining regions, but become a new engine of growth in BIMP-EAGA. By our presence here today, we are collectively announcing to the world that Mindanao is finally open for business," he added.

For his part, Deputy Secretary General Sheriff noted the increasing economic partnership between the Philippines and Malaysia, and hope that this partnership will expand.

"Mindanao has vast potential which remains untapped. It is my hope that Malaysian businessmen can benefit from the presentations and that investment promotion programs must be intensified," he said.

The forum featured presentations from Secretary Antonino, ARMM Vice Governor Karon, Board of Investments (BOI)-ARMM Chairman Sakiran Hadjan and BOI-Davao Chief Gil Dureza on Mindanao and ARMM business climate and investment potentials.

Asian Institute of Management Alumni Association-Malaysia (Kelab AIM) and Malaysia-Philippines Business Council (MPBC) Secretary Hajji Zulkifly Baharom, Selangor State Islamic Council Senior Council Senior Council Member Dato' Haji Sarip Hamid shared their experiences when they joined a delegation of 21 Malaysian businessmen who went to Cotabato on November 25 and 25 for the ARMM Investment Forum, while Unifruitti Philippines Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Perrine gave a testimonial on his company's experience in the ARMM region since 1997 and the prospects the areas present. "We have been producing bananas for exports, in partnership with local communities, and we have expanded operations even before the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement."

A business matching and networking session followed the event, where the Malaysian and Philippine delegations met each other in a working lunch to discuss possible investments in Mindanao.

Among the investment potentials in Mindanao which elicited significant interests were proposed joint ventures in oil palm, natural rubber, coconut, ecotourism sites, halal food, Islamic finance, ICT-enabled services, mass housing and infrastructure development.

During the forum, the ARMM and the Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on mutual collaboration in research and development in microfinance programs. Vice Governor Karon and AIM Chairman Dato Amihamzah Ahmad signed the MOU for the parties.

The MOU involved cooperation in the field of microfinance practices, training, research and development as well as consultancy in research and development collaboration, information exchange and sharing of facilities and co-organizing activities, among others.

The forum was held in cooperation with the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Malaysia, ARMM Regional Government, Department of Trade and Industry, BOI, and Department of Agriculture, Malaysia External Trade Corporation, the MPBC, and Kelab AIM.

It was supported by the Putrajaya Chamber of Commerce and the Berjaya Times Square management. It is a follow-up activity to the Philippines-Malaysia Investment Partnership Forum conducted by the Embassy last May 29 in Kuala Lumpur and the ARMM Mindanao Investment Forum held last November 23 to 26 in Cotabato City. END