BBL less than ARMM could derail P1.5 billion ICT project with Malaysia
(COTABATO CITY, September 1, 2015) The Regional Board of Investments of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-ARMM) issued today a statement expressing their apprehension that the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is less autonomous than the ARMM could derail the multi-billion Information Communication Technology (ICT) project of one their registered investors.
In 2011, East Asia (EA) Trilink Corporation registered with the RBOI their P1.5 billion project in the ARMM where the company is supposed to install a submarine cable link to connect Southern Philippines to Sabah, Malaysia, as part of its vision to become a leading service provider of telecommunications facilities in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-
Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
At that time the P1.5 billion telecommunications project of EA Trilink was the single largest investment project in the ARMM.
EA Trilink obtained their franchise to operate telecommunications facilities in the ARMM on February 6, 1996 through Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 47 enacted into law by the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly. Any extension of the life of the franchise would need legislation by the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly.
However, if the BBL that is passed by Congress will not provide for autonomous legislative powers for the Bangsamoro government with regards to transportation and communications as currently enjoyed by the ARMM, this will mean that the EA Trilink project could be derailed.
In the substitute bill to the BBL of the House of Representatives (House Bill 5811), fiscal incentives currently being enjoyed by ARMM investors were removed.
According to lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, former ARMM Executive Secretary and a co-convenor of the Cotabato City-based Bangsamoro Study Group, “The proposed amendments change the framework of the agreement of the parties on changing the status quo and of redefining the relation between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro to a point that the Bangsamoro has been reduced into the category of a local government unit,” (mindanews.com, July 30, 2015).
Resolution No. 005, Series of 2015 dated July 29, 2015 of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which drafted the original BBL, called for the passage of the original BBL and in effect rejected House Bill 5811 (Ibid).
Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal on Friday said the substitute BBL or Senate Bill 2894 crafted by Senator Bongbong Marcos will not provide real autonomy to the Bangsamoro (ABS-CBNnews.com, August 28, 2015).
Iqbal said that under the Marcos substitute BBL, the Bangsamoro will be treated just like an ordinary local government unit and not an autonomous entity in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, BEST Cable Corporation, the Malaysian partner of EA Trilink, led by Jasmi Adnan Thien, its president and chief executive officer, just recently visited the country and Thien presented the submarine cable project during the BIMP-EAGA CEO ICT Conference in Davao City from August 18-21.
He pointed out that the $300-million project by Best Cable Corp., Pte. Ltd., a 5,092-kilometer high bandwidth cable system connecting to Maguindanao, one of the ARMM provinces, lays down the necessary infrastructure to make the region a potential business process outsourcing (BPO) destination (Business World, August 25, 2015).
The cable, targeted for completion by 2018, is expected to link Sabah in Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, the southern Philippines, and Kalimantan in Indonesia then on to Guam and the United States (Ibid).
It will provide additional one-terabyte bandwidth as a result of the fiber optic submarine cable that will link up Mindanao to the rest of the world, said Dr. Alfredo C. Panizales, executive vice president of BEST Cable Corporation, in the same forum but the additional capacity will be initially exclusive to the ARMM, where EA Trilink, the project’s proponent in the Philippines, got its franchise (mindanews.com, August 19, 2015).