MANILA: Moscow’s top diplomat to Manila, Igor Khovaev, has urged Russian companies to invest in Mindanao to help bring development to the Philippines.
The call came as lasting peace came a step closer to the Philippines’ troubled south with the decommissioning of thousands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces.
Interviewed during a reception at his residence in Makati City, Khovaev told Arab News of Russia’s efforts to help the people of Mindanao.
In Marawi City, which suffered massive devastation during the 2017 war between government forces and Daesh-inspired militants, the ambassador said they have already provided humanitarian assistance to the affected residents.
Aside from that, he said, they were also “considering some specific projects on how to help in the reconstruction of the city.” He emphasized though that it should be part of a comprehensive cooperation between the Philippines and Russia.
“In this respect, we strongly recommend Russian business people to go to Mindanao, to explore new business opportunities there,” said Khovaev, as he pointed out “the establishment of peace and security in Mindanao is not possible without investment,” and an economic recovery.
“That’s why we have never issued an advisory to Russian citizens not to go to Mindanao. We try to encourage them to go there. We believe that the Philippines’ government is able to provide security for them,” he continued.
“I’m not ready to talk about it in a practical way. But some specific projects are now under consideration,” he stressed.
Bangsamoro’s interim chief minister, Murad Ibrahim, confirmed that Russian businessmen were now looking to invest in the region.
“Yes, I have information about potential investors from Russia. I heard that their ambassador is also interested in visiting here,” said Murad.
He emphasize the importance of addressing the security challenges faced by the region in order for more members of the international business community to come to the southern region.
“If we can fully address peace and order in the area, everyone knows that Mindanao has a very high potential for investments. But the key really is to solve the peace problem,” Murad continued.
On Saturday, a little over 1,000 combatants of the MILF, which used to be the biggest Muslim rebel group in the country, will decommission in a ceremony witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
They are part of the more than 40,000 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to be decommissioned in batches in a process to be completed by 2022.
The decommissioning is part of the normalization track of the 2014 peace agreement between the Philippine’s government and the MILF, which Murad also chaired.
The process, which will also decommission the weaponry of the MILF-BIAF forces, is seen as a symbol of peace that will impact not only the region of Mindanao but the whole country.