MANILA, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Mindanao, the relatively poor and conflict-prone island in the southern Philippines, will be the "centerpiece" of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration agenda to transform it into a major hub of agriculture and industry, the Philippine Finance chief said on Friday.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the government has lined up massive infrastructure projects in Mindanao. Five of the flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte Administration are in Mindanao, under the "Build Build Build" program.
"The centerpiece of our growth story will be the island of Mindanao. Long neglected by the centers of political and economic power, the island hosted many years of festering conflicts and failed local governance," Dominguez said during the Philippine Economic Briefing held in Davao City.
Duterte is the first Philippine leader to hail from Mindanao, and mayor of Davao before he took office in 2016.
These infrastructure projects are designed to enhance economic production, open new irrigated lands for agriculture and make the movement of goods and people easier in Mindanao, Dominguez said.
These multi-million dollars projects include Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project Phase 2 in North Cotabato, the Panguil Bay Bridge project, the expansion and improvement projects in Davao International Airport and Laguindingan Airport; and the much-anticipated 102-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project that will connect Tagum City in Davao del Norte, Davao City and Digos City in Davao del Sur.
He said that alongside these projects, the government is also set to complete several big-ticket infrastructure projects in Mindanao, which include the Davao City Coastal Road and Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network.
Dominguez said the end goal of the Duterte administration's development efforts for Mindanao and the rest of the country is to bring down poverty rate to just 14 percent when his single, six-year term ends in 2022.
The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has been one of the Philippines' biggest sources of official development assistance, is likewise investing heavily in Mindanao.
Woochong Um, secretary to the Board of Governors of the ADB, said at the same press conference that the government's "Build Build Build" program and the comprehensive tax reforms are excellent initiatives to continue the Philippines' economic growth, which could be 6.8 percent in 2018.
In 2017, ADB approved 1.08 billion U.S. dollars worth of loans to the Philippines, a record high. One of the projects approved was the 380-million U.S. dollars "Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project."