Opportunities in southern Philippines as region seeks to rebuild

By ZAINAL ALAM KADIR / Pic By BERNAMA

THE successful formation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is expected to open more doors into southern Philippines, which could easily be the next growth area for Malaysian construction and property development companies that are exploring new avenues as alternatives to the constriction that is prevalent in the domestic market.

The Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines deputy chief of mission Rizany Irwan Muhammad Mazlan said Malaysian companies should make a move into the property market, particularly in the southern region of the country that is expected to see a massive revival, in line with BTA’s effort to rebuild the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“Malaysian companies can take part in the development of the region’s property projects, especially in the low-cost and affordable housing segment,” Rizany Irwan told the Malaysian press in a briefing at the embassy in Makati.

The Organic Law for the BARMM has allowed the transition body to govern the BARMM until June 30, 2022, and it would be an opportune time for more Malaysian companies to make all the right connections.

Rizany Irwan said Malaysian companies are in a more advantageous position as Malaysia has a long history and strong relations with the progress of the southern region of the Philippines.

Mindanao is the second-largest island in the Philippines, and along with the smaller islands around, it has a total population of 20.28 million.

“Apart from construction business, Malaysian companies can also move into establishing manufacturing facilities in the region based on the potential it has to offer,” Rizany Irwan said.

He said the relations could be further strengthened by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s three-day official visit to the Philippines which began yesterday.

Dr Mahathir is accompanied by his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali; Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah; and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking, along with senior officials from both ministries.

The PM arrived at the Bulwagang Kalayaan Villamor Air Base yesterday. This morning, Dr Mahathir is scheduled to be accorded the highest honour of laying the wreath at the Rizal Monument at Rizal Park before attending an official welcome ceremony at Malacañang Palace, hosted by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Both leaders are expected to discuss political, economic and people-to-people cooperation, apart from exchanging views on topics of mutual importance during the three-day visit.

While the main agenda is Dr Mahathir’s meeting with Duterte, Rizany Irwan said the PM is also expected to have a discourse with Mindanao Development Authority chairman Datu Abul Khayr Alonto. The discussion might also pave the way for the development of more economic and social endeavours.

Malaysian companies can take part in the development of the region’s property projects, especially in the low-cost and affordable housing segment, says Rizany Irwan

As for other investment opportunities in the Philippines, Rizany Irwan added that Malaysian companies can also lend their expertise within the halal market, as well as other Shariah-compliant businesses that are still not fully explored.

“The halal industry here is still not being fully explored. Apart from the food and beverage business, other areas within the scope include the Islamic banking and halal logistics sectors,” he said.

Among Malaysian corporations that have already made inroads into the Philippines are banking giants Malayan Banking Bhd and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, as well as Berjaya Group and Genting Group which are actively involved in the hospitality industry.

Another significant project that involves a Malaysian company is the development of New Clark City, the Philippines’ equivalent to Putrajaya.

Also called Clark Green City or New Clark Green City, the planned community located in Capas, Tarlac, is developed by AlloyMtd Group, a merger between Malaysia’s MTD Capital Bhd and the Philippinne’s Alloy Group.

The city, with a gross development value of RM2 billion, has an area of approximately 9,450ha and will accommodate up to 1.2 million people.

“This is just one of the many examples that can be emulated by other Malaysian companies here,” Rizany Irwan said.

Malaysia’s trade relations with the Philippines have also been rather progressive over the past few years.

Rizany Irwan said in 2018, the total trade between the two countries grew by 8.7% to RM26.1 billion from the previous year’s RM25.5 billion.

Malaysia’s exports to the Philippines last year amounted to RM16.92 billion, while imports stood at RM9.9 billion.

“There’s still more that could be explored, and I think the PM’s visit would improve the already good relations with the Philippines even further,” Rizany Irwan said.