TAWI-TAWI in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is being envisioned as the next Singapore.
The province is being eyed as an economic free zone that will transform the island into an investment destination, with a thriving tourism industry.
Mindanao State University professor Sajid Omar Adil said that after 15 years of planning, research and studies, it could be a dream come true for the people of this peaceful province.
Last Monday, Chinese investors from Hong Kong joined PDP-Laban senatorial candidates former Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and former Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino in leading the groundbreaking for the Tawi-Tawi Economic Zone and the Tawi-Tawi Transshipment Port.
The economic zone will rise near the coastlines of Bgy. Kulape, Panglima Sugala while the Transshipment Port will be built in Bongao town, which is among the island chain that covers the Sibutu Passage or the main passage of sea vessels in the Southeast Asia.
According to Prof. Adil, more than 52,000 foreign vessels pass by the Sibutu Passage yearly.
Both Pimentel and Tolentino vowed full support for the project they described as beneficial not only for the people of Tawi-Tawi but also for the country as it stands to raise annual revenues from P50 billion to P80 billion aside from generating thousands of jobs for Tawi-Tawinians, who for decades have relied as a source of livelihood on small-scale businesses and barter trade.
Prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking, a contract-signing was made at a covered court, where the Chinese investors pledged an initial $2 billion or roughly P100 billion for the project.
Pimentel expressed hope that the rise of this economic zone will erase all the impressions of violence in the province triggered by Islamic extremism.
“This is truly a historic occasion because this marks the beginning of Tawi-Tawi’s journey towards peace and progress. This economic zone and Transshipment Port will be an economic game-changer not only in Mindanao but in the entire country as well,” Pimentel said.
The two PDP-Laban senatorial candidates also cited the efforts of former Tawi-Tawi governor Sakidul Adalla Sahali in providing all the necessary documents and requirements for the project to push through.
Aside from being an economic zone and transshipment complex, also included in the plan is to make Tawi-Tawi a tourism “superstar,” with its crystal-clear and tourist-attracting fine beaches.
Tolentino, an urban planning expert, said the Tawi-Tawi project and expanding more economic zones outside Metro Manila will not only produce a much progressive economy but will also help decongest Metro Manila and ease its traffic problems.
“This is the best thing that has happened in Tawi-Tawi. This project would definitely inspire all other provinces in Mindanao such as Basilan and Sulu to shun terrorism and embrace peace and development. Tawi-tawi is leading the way for Mindanao’s quest for peace, “ Tolentino said.