Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, urged businessmen on Tuesday to invest in Mindanao and help the government address the threat of extremism and terrorism.
Speaking at the Asia CEO Forum in Makati City, Dureza said traders play a big role in sustaining peace.
“What we need is sustainable peace. Businesses must get in which will fuel development. There is no peace when there is no development. Peace process if development process,” he added.
He urged investors not to allow terrorists to stop their businesses.
“When Davao night market was ripped by a bomb, businessmen rushed to the area right after it was cleared. Now the place is booming with business activities and people are flocking non-stop,” Dureza pointed out.
“There can be no peace without the support of the people. The government and private companies must come out with programs that build relationships and provide opportunities to the people. Peace is like building roads that allow social cohesion,” he told the audience, composed mostly of company heads and top management officers.
Dureza said rebels in provinces burn machines or equipment of mining companies or kill their officials because local residents were not hired by these firms.
“Big companies commit major mistakes because they hire personnel, not from the area where they operate. What they should do is to train the men and women living in the area and employ them. Educate them to become technical employees,” he said.
He urged companies to be “sensitive” because the people living in the area where their businesses are located their “first line of defense.”
Citing the situation in Marawi City, Dureza narrated that two days before the end of Ramadan, he sent his employees to evacuation centers in Iligan City and asked them to go beyond giving relief goods.
“With the help of Muslim volunteers, our people gathered the evacuees and asked them to express their anger, their dissatisfaction, and ask them what kind of assistance they want and activities they want to get into. This exercise is hoped as a start of social healing,” he said.
Dureza called on businessmen to also invest in Marawi when the city has been cleared of Maute terrorists to help people there rebuild their lives.
He cited the case in Zamboanga City which was also attacked by members of the Moro National Liberation Front in 2013.
“Until now, four years after, only 50 percent of the affected residents have been given assistance. The city has not totally recovered,” the official lamented.
Bernie Villegas, economist and professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, gave assurances that foreign businessmen will invest in Mindanao and other areas.
He cited several reasons why foreign investors will not stay away form the country.
“First there is P30 billion remittance which means we have consumer-oriented economics considering that we have 104 million Filipinos right here. Second is the booming call center business, not only in Metro Manila but also in the provinces. Third, is 60 million Filipino local tourists.They go not just in Boracay but in Palawan, north, south, and to the rest of Mindanao,” Villegas said.
He said some areas like Clark, Iloilo and Batangas will also become major business hubs.
Other forum speakers, themselves businessmen, urged the government to hasten the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
Meanwhile, Steve Cutler, president and chief executive officer of FSC Holdings, and Marc Singer, chief analyst of Pacific Strategies & Assessments, said the government should lay down the groundwork for federalism in a bid to grant autonomy not just to Moro areas but to regions in the countryside.
Marlene Jante, president of Philippine Travel Agencies Association, admitted that there was a decline of tourist arrivals when the Marawi crisis erupted. However, travel agencies are now receiving bookings, including large groups from Europe.
Cutler said that the Philippines remains safe, citing the successful hosting of the country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit which will conclude this coming November.
“We did not hear any single incident that disrupted the Asean meeting. Except the one in Bohol but it was clipped when authorities prevented the Abu Sayyaf Group members for spreading terror,” Cutler said.