Aquino sees ‘new era of hope’ in Mindanao

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FROM the Land of Promise to a land of Promises Fulfilled.

That’s how President Benigno Aquino III described Mindanao before businessmen who attended the launching of the Mindanao Inclusive Agriculture Program by the Philippine Business for Social Progress in a hotel in Davao City Monday morning.

Aquino said Mindanao is now “a more attractive area for investment.”

“We are all aware of the great potential of Mindanao, especially in terms of agriculture,” the president said before over a jam-packed SMX Convention Center, adding that 40 percent of the country’s food-supply, and more than 30 percent of the produce traded domestically are from Mindanao.

Aside from fisheries, Mindanao is the country’s leading producer of rubber, cacao, pineapple, coffee, and coconut.

He noted how Mindanao lagged behind over the years as a result of corruption and unrest in the region. He described this as the “narratives we inherited and the narratives we have committed to change.”

“Self-interest and transactionalism bred a vicious cycle of poverty, political patronage, and underdevelopment — this in turn fuelled the discontent of our brothers in the Bangsamoro,” the president said. “We reformed the system invested in communities, synchronised the elections of ARMM with our local and national elections, and worked workers building genuine consensus and trust, knowing full well that these were fundamental to our pursuit of peace.”

But the progressive organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said peace is something that the Aquino will never be on top of the agenda of the Aquino administration — not with the kind of developments that Aquino is pushing, according to Bayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Sheena Duazo.

“These investments encourage conflict as these only serve the interests of the capitalists,” Duazo said. “If the government will continue to push for this investments and these types of developments, more and more farmers and indigenous peoples will be displaced and eventually be landless. What we need is a genuine land reform and not a sellout of the country’s abundant resources.”

Monday’s event in Davao also saw the announcement by Peace Sec. Teresita Deles that the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will finally be transmitted to Congress on Wednesday. Deles said Aquino will personally hand over the draft to the members of Congress.

“It’s just a last cleaning up,” said Deles during a press conference on the sidelines of the business conference. “On Wednesday there will be a turn-over ceremony in Malacanang. The leaders are expected to go to Malacanang and the president has personally decided to deliver the draft BBL.”

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he will be among those who will be present during the turn-over of the draft.

“We would like to show our support to this,” he said.

In his speech, Aquino expressed his gratitude to all those who have persevered for peace in Mindanao.

“Today, thanks to all those who have put in the long days and nights for this part of the country, our countrymen in Mindanao see a new future on the horizon — the dawn of peace, stability, and ultimately prosperity,” he said. “It is therefore only right that we commit further to the realisation of this promise by finding ways to maximise the long-held prospects for growth for all stakehoders Clearly: we boost Mindanao’s capabilities, so that they themselves may catch up and contribute to our economic growth.”

Aquino enumerated the projects that facilitated Mindanao development, including the 3.491 kilometres of national roads, 208.4 farm-to-market roads, and the P99 billion “vital infrastructure” projects in the region.

The president also thanked the business sector for its role in the development of Mindanao. He said PBSP, through the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program, are out to support Mindanao’s small farming communities, something that will enable “them to capitalise on the rich resources and the many opportunities in the region.”

“The objective for all of us — to build Mindanao that can catch up in the soonest possible time, and, by doing, create a regime of opportunities where no Filipino is left behind.”

He said he will highlight the developments in Mindanao during his upcoming visits to Europe and the United States.

“The changing face of Mindanao is among our greatest sources of pride,” he said. “It is a region that, once mired in strife, will soon realise its dreams of peace and prosperity, of innovation and advancement, of being a wellspring of opportunity for its peoples. This, I believe, is the  great legacy we work towards, a legacy we proudly can bequeath to the next generation.” | JMT, NewsDesk

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