Asia’s ‘Dubai’ will rise in Tawi-tawi

Simunul, Tawi-Tawi -- A 10-Billion Euro worth of development project is set to jumpstart change in the landscape of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) within the year.

Mayor Benzar Nur Tambut of the Local Government of Simunul in Tawi-tawi said that the proposed project is dubbed as the Simunul Industrial and Oil Tank Park. The project will cover the total development of the Municipality of Simunul, its main island and the island of Manok Mankaw, with its virgin peach beaches.

The LGU chief executive summarizes the goals of the project as, jobs creation; improvement of education and health services; strengthening of spiritual and cultural identities; protection and development of natural resources; conservation and preservation of a balance eco-system and tourism development.

The proposed project will consist, mainly, of a very unique embedded 200-oil tank farm that will turn later into a mountain to harmonize Simunul's natural environment. Aside from the tank farm, which will become the oil reserve for the country, the industrial park shall host the processing plants for tuna and seaweeds by-products and its integrated services.

Simunul Island, one of the smallest inhabited islands in the country, is set to be the next "Dubai" in Southeast Asia. Though slight in land mass, the people are well-off in natural resources and the island was the cradle of Islam in the Philippines.

The most significant piece of architecture in the island is the Sheik Makdum Mosque built in 1380. This mosque in Simunul is the oldest found in the Philippines and host of pilgrims from neighboring Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia and even from neighboring localities in the Muslim Mindanao. Although it has been worn by the ravages of time, its pillars still stand to this day. Simunul is a zero crime rate municipality.

Mayor Tambut said that he had already signed a Memorandum of Agreement with REBC Builders led by Engr. Reynaldo Esplanada to implement the project.

The proposed project is so huge, covering the 200-tank farm, township, power plant, domestic airport, hotel/resort, land transportation system, potable water source, reforestation and landscaping, IT and telecommunications, road and bridges development, solid waste management facility, golf course, industrial storage/processing facility, power transmission facility, hospital facility, schools, commercial district and jetty/ports, that consortiums of foreign and local contractors are welcome to participate in the project.

The development of Simunul will greatly generate employment not only in Simunul but in the whole of Tawi-tawi, the entire ARMM and the neighboring areas. And the unemployed Filipino migrants in Malaysia and Indonesia will surely find haven back home.

The project will also jumpstart the development of the entire Mindanao and will change its landscape as the "Promise Land" for the 'sleeping' Philippines, and will certainly put an end to the long separatist movements.

Mayor Tambut has agreed to what the EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald had said during the recent Second National Summit of the Ulama (Islamic scholars) in the Philippines, citing the experience of Europe, where the realization was reached that "it would be suicidal to continue the civil war. It's fratricidal. The best way to put an end to this cycle of violence is to offer everyone, victor and vanquished, a better future, a more prosperous future… But the importance of peace, the importance of development is exactly the same as it was in Europe in the 1950s. The children of Mindanao deserve no less."

Mayor Tambut further cited what US Ambassador Kristie Kenney had told the Islamic scholars during the said Summit that "Until frankly Mindanao recognizes and realizes its great potential, the entire Philippines cannot realize its potential. When a third of your nation is not able to recognize the aspirations, the dreams, and the economic potential of its people, then a third of your people is not moving forward."

Truly, the Island of Simunul will become the 'light and hope' of the people in Mindanao, as perfectly named by the Arabian Missionary Sheik Makhdum, who discovered the islands in 1380, where he built the first and oldest mosque in the Philippines.



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