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Peace deal sparks Mindanao development boom

                                   Employees from Japanese construction consultancy Chodai inspect the construction site of an industrial park in the city of Butuan, on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

MANILA -- The Philippine island of Mindanao has long been an economic backwater, plagued by a bloody, deep-rooted conflict between Islamic separatist insurgents and a government backed by an overwhelmingly Christian population.

     But a peace deal finalized in early 2014 between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has halted the violence, ushering in a new era of economic development on the island.

     Signs of Mindanao's economic awakening are emerging in various parts of the island, including Butuan in the south. One project underway in this city of 350,000 people symbolizes the development boom that is rapidly transforming the island's bucolic landscape. On a large swathe of land made available by cutting away a hill, construction work is being done to build a small hydraulic power plant with a capacity of 8MW.

     Until the 1980s, Butuan had a thriving forestry sector and exported timber to Japan and other markets. But reckless deforestation and other factors caused the forest industry to gradually decline. The city's other major industry, shrimp and prawn cultivation, has been devastated by an epidemic. Today, the city's only major industry is agriculture, mainly rice production. The region is one of the least-developed parts of an already woefully underdeveloped island.

Push for power   

Butuan is also struggling with a serious power shortage. Four-hour blackouts are not uncommon.

Cr.MINORU SATAKE, Nikkei staff writer<P>

Natalie P.Sisutcharit.../Report

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