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Malaysia, BARMM keen on pursuing business pacts

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By Noel Punzalan (PNA)

COTABATO CITY – The Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) has expressed interest in bringing in big manufacturing enterprises in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), tapping the region’s vast workforce to make processed Halal (Islamic) food and rubber products, among others.

This was revealed by MCCI president Edward Ling during a visit to the BARMM compound here last Aug. 5, together with other Malaysian representatives and business leaders.

“I’m very optimistic and very confident about the development taking place here. We are looking forward to creating jobs like manufacturing of rubber gloves or it can be toy manufacturing.” Ling said.

Apart from Ling, other members of the Malaysian business delegation were Malaysian Embassy Charge D’Affaires Rizany Irwan Muhammad Mazlan, Assistant Trade Councilor Irvin Francis, and other MCCI officials. Lawyer Wencelito Andanar, Malacañang’s special envoy to Malaysia, accompanied the Malaysian group in their two-day visit at the BARMM.

On Aug. 4, the Malaysian delegation met with officials of the BARMM Regional Board of Investments and discussed the possibility of strengthening business and development linkages between BARMM and Malaysia.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, also known as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, welcomed the visiting business group as they discussed the possibility of strengthening development ventures between the BARMM and Malaysia.

“We hope to establish more active engagements with Malaysia and other Southeast Asian neighbors in the aspect of economics and business alliance,” Murad said in a statement.

Ministry of the Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, concurrent BARMM spokesperson, said it is encouraging to see Malaysia reaching out to BARMM in the aspect of trade and commerce.

“It is really good for BARMM, especially that the region, still in its infancy stage, needs the investment support of both domestic and foreign businesses for it to take off to greater heights,” Sinarimbo, a lawyer, said in a separate interview Thursday.

Mazlan, for his part, said they want to see BARMM as a “partner in peace and brothers of development,” that dovetails with the theme of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

"I think it is very appropriate to see Malaysia as the main partner and also the brother or 'kapatid', basically helping our relative. This is part of the shared prosperity and prospers the neighbor policy of the Prime Minister of Malaysia." Mazlan said in a separate statement.

Moreover, Mazlan said they want to explore BARMM's untapped potentials in tourism, a revival of the barter trade and other manufacturing industries such as Halal food.

Murad said there are three existing development plans for the region, one is with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Bangsamoro development plan crafted years ago, before the formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

“The factions of the MNLF, who joined the BARMM, have also a development plan. Then they found out that the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has also their development plan,” he said.

“We look forward to working partnership with our neighbors especially Malaysia. It is important that we can encourage investors to come in, so we can develop the economy, only then that the people will feel that something is happening, " Murad said.

Murad added that the BARMM is planning to have an investors forum aimed at associating the three investment strategies to come up with a comprehensive plan.

BARMM Transportation and Communication Minister Dickson Hermoso, a former military officer, has assured the Malaysian delegates of improving peace and order situation in the region.

"We thank Malaysia for being with us as the third party facilitator (during the peace talks with the MILF),” Hermoso, who is also currently the co-chairman of the government-MILF peace and security panel, said.

Last Aug. 1, the decommissioning process of former MILF combatants commenced, with some 3,000 members of its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) starting their one-month basic military training in military camps in Central Mindanao. The MILF trainees would form part of the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) together with their military counterparts.

The JPST assimilated with 3,000 soldiers and policemen to secure the MILF identified camps and communities while the normalization process is being done.