By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has pushed for closer trade and investment cooperation between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, even offering Mindanao as a “promising” business destination once the Marawi crisis is over.
The President made the pitch for increased trade exchanges between the two nations during a meeting with the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Philippines Richard Graham in Malacañang Wednesday.
“President Duterte stressed that once the conflict in Marawi City ends, Mindanao could be a promising place for investments to come in,” the Palace report read.
The President assured a friendly business climate in the country, citing his commitment to stamp out red tape and corruption in the bureaucracy.
“President Duterte then guaranteed that foreign investors need not worry about public officials extorting money from them, as he vowed to put an end to corruption in the government,” the Palace said.
In the meeting with the President, the UK official extended his government’s support to the increased security and economic cooperation with the Philippines.
“Graham, for his part, said that UK is absolutely behind the Philippines in its fight against terrorism,” the Palace said. “He said British investors are encouraged to do business in the Philippines,” it added.
President Duterte earlier hinted plans to lift martial law in Mindanao as soon as government troops have completed clearing operations in Marawi and contained spillovers elsewhere.
“The catch word is when it’s safe here in Mindanao. There is no spillage… as long as it remains manageable and the police can take care of it,” Duterte said during his visit to the war-torn country last week.
Malacañang says security forces are on their “final push” against the remaining terrorists in Marawi City after retaking another strategic bridge in the main battle area.
The troops have been clearing the area of booby traps planted by militants to slow down pursuing government forces to make it safe for residents before they return to their communities.
The conflict has left more than 800 people dead since the fighting between government troops and Islamic State-linked militants erupted last May 23 and forced thousands of families out of their homes.