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Investment from China expected to transform Mindanao
From the air, Mindanao Island on the southern tip of the Philippine archipelago looks peaceful. The mountainous terrain is covered in lush green growth and the hillsides are dotted with a patchwork of farms.
Over the decades, Mindanao has gone through some serious conflicts but now the worst appears to be over.
The northern town of Marawi was the scene of a five-month Islamic State group-inspired insurrection battle last year that has left the town devastated.
A Chinese firm was one of the first to offer help in the reconstruction, but there were issues that could not be resolved so the company reluctantly walked away.
But there are other Chinese firms, State-owned and private, waiting to help in the reconstruction, according to China"s Consul General in Davao City, Li Lin, who is a strong believer in the future of Mindanao.
And he is not alone. Peter Lavina, a former Philippine deputy cabinet secretary, believes change is coming to Mindanao and that change will be driven by China.
The past two years have seen several Chinese delegations visit Mindanao.
"We have a very active Chinese community in Mindanao, most of whom are from Fujian province on the southeast coast of China," said Lavina.
"Just how long the Chinese have been here is open to speculation. There is one theory the Spanish (who ruled the Philippines during 1521-1898) brought in skilled carpenters from Fujian. Then there is another that many of the Davao Chinese are descendants of Fujian fishermen who came and stayed.
"Either way, they have become part of the rich fabric that is Mindanao."
Abul Khayr Alonto, the first Muslim chair and secretary of the Mindanao Development Authority, is also optimistic.
He is a staunch supporter of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will establish a new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, to replace the current ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).
Last year, Mindanao posted robust growth of 7.1 percent, compared to the national growth figure of 6.7 percent.
Alonto said that Mindanao"s agribusiness and tourism have great potential for Chinese investment.
"Mindanao has bountiful natural wealth," he said.
"It is touted as the food basket of the Philippines. It is blessed with favorable agroclimatic conditions, with fertile soils, an even tropical climate and with rich biodiversity, which makes it suitable for food production and agribusiness development."
As of 2017, Mindanao supplied 40 percent of the country"s food requirements and contributed more than 30 percent to the national food trade.
Mindanao accounts for 91 percent of the country"s oil palm production, 89 percent of its pineapple production, 84 percent of the bananas and 82 percent of coffee. Of the country"s rubber production, 99 percent comes from Mindanao. For seaweed, the contribution is 62 percent, and for coconut around 60 percent.
Mindanao has consistently been a net exporter of agri-based products, contributing 25 percent to the country"s total exports with earnings reaching $3.58 billion in 2017.
Alonto said Mindanao has great tourism potential given its spectacular landscapes and wide array of attractions.
"Chinese investors are interested in our agricultural products and we export fresh Cavendish bananas, canned fruits and other food products to China," Alonto said.
"China is also looking at establishing industrial parks in Mindanao, and there is a growing interest in infrastructure development, particularly in the power and energy sectors, transport and logistics."
Alonto cited the Oct 28 launch of Cathay Dragon flights from Hong Kong to Davao and vice versa.
"And China"s Xiamen Airlines will soon open a direct flight (three times a week) from Jinjiang (in Fujian province) to Davao City," he said.
"Chinese tourists are now the top two in terms of foreign tourist arrivals in Mindanao." And he said their numbers are expected to increase with the opening of these direct connections to key cities in Mindanao, in addition to existing flights of Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific.design your own silicone braceletcharity rubber wristbandsreuse silicone braceletscustom friendship braceletslittle rubber band bracelets