By Roger Bantiles/OpinYon Mindanao

The miracle is working. The kick in investments going to Mindanao was most unexpected. P886.75 Billion in investment leads last month alone is more than a vote of confidence on our new President from the south.

When this mayor from a city in Mindanao ran and won to be become the 16th President of the Philippines, he promised to rid the streets of crime and stop corruption in government.

He also gave hope to people in the south, more importantly, Mindanao, that imperial Manila will find better attention and throw in more resources to the south.

This hope deepened when the new President said Mindanao will get its fair share in the development of the country under his watch.

For the first time in Philippine history, a president from Mindanao – President Rodrigo R. Duterte - has taken over the highest post in the land, the gift of the Filipino people, at noon of June 30, 2016.

With his election, the big island, the erstwhile Land of Promise, is at center stage, and in the long term, will no longer be the country’s backdoor, no longer a hotbed of conflict and trouble, but a region of peace and progress, socioeconomic development, viable infrastructure projects, trade and business.

The East ASEAN Growth Area, composed of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, is expected to register further growth with the opening of Mindanao, now in the radar of investors, as the new gateway to the Philippines.

Duterte’s assumption into the presidency has been met with much optimism and enthusiasm, boosting the morale of particularly Mindanaoans. There is a surge of investments in Mindanao and Davao; the overall stock market index is performing well, hitting its 8,000-highest mark on the day he was sworn in as the 16th President of the Philippines.

Filipinos approve of his leadership; the new president received an "excellent" net public trust rating of 84 percent during a June 2016-Social Weather Stations survey, the first such survey to be taken since he assumed the presidency.

Total amounts of investments in Mindanao are staggering; Investment leads surged in June, surpassing the figures for the first four months of 2016, according to data from the Board of Investments (BOI)–Southern Mindanao.

BOI-Southern Mindanao says the P886.75 billion investment leads last month, the highest in six years, showed an improved investors’ confidence for Mindanao after the victory of President Duterte. These include 12 to 13 big ticket projects by Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, and European investors.

Judging by the amounts, the level of confidence is extremely high. Gil Dureza, an official of the BOI-Southern Mindanao, said the approved investments registered P11.785 billion in 2010; P91.42 billion in 2011; P25.04 billion in 2012; P109.401 billion in 2013; P69.358 billion in 2014; and P25.810 billion in 2015.

This is attributed to the way Duterte has projected that he would transform the economy, a signal to the global community to build up their level of confidence. Foreign investors are interested to invest in Mindanao because they approve of Duterte’s peace and order agenda and the 10-point economic plan. The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. and Mindanao Development Authority are tapped to assist investors.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, a Mindanaoan, notes it was only this time that investments took a major leap with investors wanting to infuse more investments in the island like never before. He says they are now focusing on making a follow- through on the projects – and no longer with incentives – to ensure that the requirements of the investors are met. Investors are invited to locate in existing economic zones and industrial parks just like in Malita in Davao Occidental, Panabo in Davao del Norte, and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur.

Prospective targets of investments are Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects (P39 billion), manufacturing particularly petrochemicals and integrated steel (P742 billion); mass housing (P510 million); infrastructure particularly port development (P3 billion); power generation (P49 billion) and resource-based agriculture (P33 billion).

Dureza sees an urgent need to streamline procedures for investors in accordance with President Duterte’s policy of eliminating red tape in government and easing the procedures in doing business so as to encourage more investors to come and invest in the country.

Of the total investment leads in Mindanao, Davao City cornered P6.3 billion, Dureza reveals. Davao City is likewise the location of choice for the regional offices of foreign investors. This positions Davao into eventually becoming another growth pole providing counterbalance to Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

The populist President Duterte now has every opportunity to replicate at the national level his achievements in transforming Davao City, now the Malacanang of the South – where he was longtime mayor of 23 years, one of the longest serving local executives – as a model of peace, development and security for every Filipino to enjoy.

One advantage of having a Malacañang in the South is that it will decongest bureaucratic processes as transactions that concern Mindanao and the Visayas may promptly and be directly acted upon in the region. In the can to be facilitated by the presidential office in the city would be the creation of a Mindanao-wide rail system to benefit a wide segment of the commuting public.

Duterte is credited for bringing peace and development to the erstwhile troubled city. He was the first mayor to give Muslim representation, appointing them to positions of responsibility to represent Muslim interests. Predominantly-Muslim Mindanao has taken a backseat and has lagged in development for so long. Up to this time, national government resources are concentrated in Metro Manila and in Luzon. Whatever wrongs may have been committed in the past can now be righted by a president from Mindanao. Duterte is a leader who understands well what is going on in Mindanao. He points out the need to negotiate with the Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army.

Duterte dreams of having a unified Filipinos living in unity, peace and contentment in their own country. “My dream really is one day, all Filipinos would just say Filipinos and we do not at all mention if he’s left or right, he’s a Moro rebel or a Moro terrorist, and he can live in peace,” he says, adding that “I have six years to do it. I do not know how many concessions God can (give), but he made me a President, so I hope He helps me.”

Having a Malacañang in the South is a gesture by the new leadership to the Left and Muslim rebels that the new president is sincere in talking peace with them, and that the process of forging lasting peace with them will be expedited. Hopes are high that soon there would be a solution to the decades-old problems of Mindanao and that the regions’ ethnic groups and communities can unite to contribute to a lasting peace and progress.

The peace process, inequality and unequal distribution of wealth may be addressed by Duterte, in consonance with his goal of shifting to a federal form of government. Re-starting the peace process is vital for national and regional peace and stability. He has the golden opportunity to deliver peace to the south and to the Philippines, which he has promised to do and in which he is in the best position to deliver.

Federalism is based on democracy where the power to govern is divided between national and provincial or state governments. Most federal governments give the central government powers on foreign policy and national defense.

There are more than 25 countries in the world that have federal systems of government, representing 40 percent of the world populations. These include some of the largest and most complex democracies – the United States, India, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, Columbia, South Africa and Canada.

Slowly, but inexorably, change is indeed coming in Luzon, Visayas and more so, in Mindanao. The historic victory of President Duterte has broken the traditional belief that only a candidate from Luzon can ever win the presidency. Duterte was also the first Mindanaoan to run for President. Twelve of the country's 15 presidents from 1898 to 2010 have come from Luzon. Only three are from the Visayas: Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, and Carlos Garcia. Duterte’s phenomenal win stems from the fact that he won imperial Metro Manila, an opposition bailiwick, and practically all regions and was chosen by an electorate belonging to all class status from A to E.

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Sunday, 19 January 2020
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