DAVAO CITY -– Economic and livelihood opportunities in the Bangsamoro were underscored during the Philippines Development Forum (PDF), which opened here Wednesday at SM Lanang Premier’s SMX Convention Center.
The forum, which focused on the Bangsamoro, featured a break-out session on the livelihood and economy cluster which discussed economic challenges and opportunities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said the improving prospects of ARMM’s economy indicate better days for the region.
“Like the rest of Mindanao, ARMM’s economy is growing,” she said while adding “ARMM’s economy grew by 3.6 percent in 2013, an impressive leap from the 1.1 percent in 2012, and the 0.3 percent decline in 2011.”
Antonino, who sat as one of the discussants in the economic and livelihood cluster break-out session said “the forum comes at an interesting, if not exciting times in Mindanao, as we lay down the foundations of just and lasting peace.”
Organized by the Department of Finance (DOF), this year PDF serves as the primary mechanism of the Philippine Government for facilitating substantive policy dialogue among stakeholders on the country’s development agenda.
The event is also designed as a process for developing consensus and in generating commitments among different stakeholders toward critical actionable areas within the Philippine Government’s reform agenda.
“I am more than excited to see that ARMM has improved largely because of significant growth posted by the agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishery (AHFF) sector,” said Antonino.
ARMM’s AHFF sector accounts for 61.3 percent of the region’s growth followed by the services sector with 33.6 percent, and the industry sector at 5.1 percent.
She said the services sector posted the highest growth year-on-year, with financial intermediation sharply increasing by 18.5 percent last year.
“This could only mean increased confidence among investors, improved systems, and better institutions in the ARMM, thereby ushering in investments that will increase infrastructure, provide jobs, and jumpstart the economy towards our goal of long-term inclusive growth,” added Antonino.
Huge investments were secured by the ARMM during the first and third quarters of this year. In the first half of 2013, the region already secured about P2.53 billion worth of projects, 72 percent up from entire investments it clinched in 2013. These investments included renewable energy projects, minerals development, oil palm investments, and import and export trading business ventures.
“Although these developments might not look compelling as compared to the larger goal of economic security in the ARMM, but these in fact emerged out of our conscious effort to slowly, but steadily push the ARMM and the rest of Mindanao back on investment map,” she said.
To promote inclusive growth in the Bangsamoro and the entire Mindanao region, Antonino said that MinDA is facilitating investments that create more job opportunities and spur growth in depressed communities.
“We encourage investments that usher inclusive business, such as agribusiness projects that allow low-income groups to become part of production and supply chain, and enable them to benefit from long-term employment and sustained socio-economic development.”
In September this year, MinDA forged a partnership with the Philippine Business for Social Progress and launched the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program (MIAP), in line with President Aquino’s pivotal thrust of inclusive growth.
MIAP will adopt the Mindanao Development Corridors program to advance inclusive agribusiness models in the island-region in efforts to reduce poverty and accelerate private sector investments that will increase employment and spur livelihood opportunities in the island-region.
“Several companies are expanding in the ARMM and we look forward to the private sector delivering the engine of inclusive economic growth in the region,” said Antonino.
She added that opportunities for investments in the Bangsamoro are slowly increasing, particularly in agriculture, agribusiness and marine-based industries such as cacao, rubber, oil palm, coconut, banana, fisheries and mariculture production and halal food processing.
“While we are seeing inroads to economic growth, we are far from reaching the level where we should be. We need to prioritize and support programs, projects, and policies that promise optimized and broad-based growth,” stressed Antonino.
This year’s PDF gathered national and local government units, donor agencies, international financial institutions, business chambers, as well as sectoral and interest groups to map out and coordinate socioeconomic development efforts and objectives for the Bangsamoro and the entire island-region of Mindanao.