THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) and several government agencies signed Thursday, February 2, an agreement promoting the creation and development of regional economic zone initiatives in Mindanao. Other involved agencies include Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm)-Regional Economic Zone Authority (Reza), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Zamboanga Economic Zone Authority.
MinDa chair secretary Datu Abdul Khayr Alonto said in a speech during the Mindanao Ecozone Summit Thursday at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City, that the different agencies will work together to ensure the realization of the economic zones necessary for the progress of Mindanao. “The thrust now is to establish the Mindanao Economic Development Corridor and Mindanao Economic Zones in cooperation with Peza within the Duterte administration,” he said.
He emphasized that these can serve as a backbone of the administration’s shift to federal form of government. Alonto added that establishing ecozones are essential in spurring growth in the island-region particularly the Armm.
“We are preparing Tawi-Tawi to become the next Singapore, where investors and tourists flock together to conduct business and leisure in the islands. This may be a wishful thinking, but as long as we work together, this dream is not far from happening,” Alonto said adding that the plan will start this year. Regional Economic Zone governor Mujiv Hataman said in a statement that the Armm government supports the new thrust of Peza to embark on new frontiers.
He said the objective is to establish at least one ecozone in the Armm provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Lanao del Sur and the city of Marawi by 2020. Hataman added that they intend to invite 10 multi-national companies from Middle East and Asean including Bimp-Eaga to operate in Armm.
At present, there is only one operating ecozone in Armm, the Polloc Free Port in Parang, Maguindanao. Presently, it is generating P134 million according to the Bureau of Customs from only P75,000 in 2013. Alonto said MinDa and Peza should focus in Mindanao’s agriculture and other sectors like fisheries and aquaculture for the region’s over-all development.
“If I am to envision the island-region’s development in the next 10 to 20 years, I see agriculture and agri-based industries as the most prominent drivers of Mindanao economy,” Alonto expressed. He added that in the next four years, the establishment of inter-regional roads, airports, and other gateway ports including the Mindanao Railway System will be created. “They say that it will take us 17 years to build these projects. I told them no, we will finish it. We can do it in 4 years,” he explained.
Peza director general Charito Plaza reported that in 2016, a total of 3,906 companies were established in the country. In fact, the amount of investments rose up to P218.176 million with US$43.62 billion in exports. The locator companies under Peza generated more than 1.34 million jobs.
As of April last year, there are 361 identified economic zones in the country of which 81 belong to Mindanao. It covers various sectors like manufacturing, tourism, agro-industry, and information technology. Over 200 industry players gathered yesterday for the first day of the two-day summit aimed at “finalizing integral steps necessary to boost ecozone development in Mindanao.