Moro meeting for ARMM stability gets traders’ nod

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COTABATO CITY: The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Business Council (ABC), an umbrella organization of business chambers and trade associations in the region, has expressed support to the call for an all-Moro convention to foster stability in the ARMM.

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ABC Chairman Rima Hassan said the Marawi City siege has affected business prospects in the region and there is need for a stable environment for doing business to attract needed investments.

“We want the business sector in ARMM to be part of ongoing discussions on changing the policy environment with regard to the peace process and how it affects doing business in the region. There are already considerable physical safety concerns and bringing new rules of the game for business will have to be carefully considered,” she added.

“I am referring to the two peace tracks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF] and the Moro National Liberation Front [MNLF]. That’s why the business sector is supportive of the government’s all-Moro convention as announced by Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, Mindanao Development Authority secretary,” Hassan said.

Hassan believes the all-Moro convention can effectively become a platform to address the particular conditions of their respective localities.

She pointed out “the business issues in the island provinces of ARMM tend to be more concerned with fostering cross-border trade with BIMP-EAGA particularly, Sabah, Malaysia. That means trading facilities and access to cross-border credit lines.”

The BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines-East Asean Growth Area.

For Hassan, policy instability amid the Marawi siege and its aftermath is the last thing the business sector needs in the ARMM.

The call for an all-Moro convention was echoed by Soliman Santos, a leading scholar on the Moro peace process, a strategic thinker on Mindanao issues and an original peace-building advocate on the Moro fronts.

“My working hypothesis arising from the Marawi siege is that the strategic situation on the Moro front has changed qualitatively. Under my framework for the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report, I referred to the three tracks of the Moro conflict: 1) implementation of the GRP-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement; 2) the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, [now implementation of its 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro]; and 3) the ASG-led post-9/11 terrorism [now with the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group taking center stage in 2017]and counter-terrorism on the Moro front,” Santos said.

GRP is the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and ASG is the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group that, like the Maute Group that laid siege on Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, last May 23, is affiliated with the Islamic State or IS.

The 1996 agreement was signed by the MNLF, then led by Nur Misuari, and then-President Fidel V. Ramos.

JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL

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