Reelectionist Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and former Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino recently graced the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tawi-Tawi Ecomomic Zone in Barangay Kulape, Panglima Sugala and the Tawi-Tawi Transshipment Port in Bongao town.
“This is truly a historic occasion because this marks the beginning of Tawi-Tawi’s journey toward peace and progress. This development will be an economic game-changer not only in Mindanao, but in the whole country,” Pimentel said.
The senator believes Tawi-Tawi could be the next Singapore as an investment destination, since over 52,000 foreign vessels in the Southeast Asia pass through Sibutu Island.
Meamwhile, Mindanao State University professor Sajid Omar Adil welcomed the creation of the economic zone and transshipment port in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Adil said that said that after 15 years of planning, research and studies, it could be a dream come true for the people of this peaceful province.
The Mindanao Development Authority has endorsed the planned P15-billion ecozone that would turn the island province into a major trading post in Southeast Asia.
The island province is expected to raise P50 billion to P80 billion in annual revenues and generate more job opportunities from the ecozone and seaport.
Prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking, a contract signing was made at the Panglima Sugala covered court, where 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.”
The senator and Tolentino 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 waters 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.