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Exec says it’s ‘business as usual’ in Mindanao

Barely a week since President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, a top official of the Mindanao Business Council said that it was “business as usual” in most of the major island in spite of terrorist attacks in Marawi City.

Council chair Vicente T. Lao said the business community in Mindanao was “quite comfortable” with martial law because it would lead to a faster solution to the peace and order problem on the island, an issue that has been a constant concern among investors in southern Philippines.

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“Of course, we cannot avoid jitters from the international community because martial law connotes a not very good meaning,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Saturday.

The President put the entire Mindanao under martial rule last May 23 following terrorist attacks in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur, perpetrated by militants inspired by the Islamic State (IS).

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Lao’s comment echoed the assurance of the Duterte administration, which said that the country’s economy would not be dragged down by martial law in Mindanao, a declaration which brings back documented horrors of torture and other human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship.

Lao said that there were occasional searches by defense forces in checkpoints in Mindanao, but these were not a big problem to business.

While being put under martial law was “no longer normal” given the otherwise conflict-driven history of Mindanao, he said that investors trusted the decision of the President, even if Mr. Duterte would choose to extend its duration.

“We feel that what he is doing is the best under the circumstances. If he feels that there is a need to extend martial law beyond 60 days, I think that decision would be respected by the [Mindanao] business community,” he added.

He insisted that the fundamentals for investing in Mindanao were “quite strong,” citing cheaper power rates, more affordable land and an educated workforce.

In terms of contribution to the gross domestic product, however, he said that Mindanao’s share was still small as the combined gross regional domestic product of the entire island accounted for a yearly share of between 14 and 15 percent of the whole country.

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TAGS: Mindanao, President Duterte
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