TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte (12 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wanted the creation of Investment Defense Force (IDF) to provide security for investments in Mindanao.
Speaking during the Local Peace and Security Assembly (LPSA) for Southern Mindanao held in Tagum City, President Arroyo said the defense force will "give protective shield to power assets, other infrastructure and mineral development projects."
She left to the local peace and order councils in Mindanao to identify other projects and infrastructure to be placed under the care of IDF which would become an added function of the military.
President Arroyo wanted business people to feel safe and secure of their investments in Mindanao as she noted that even call center investors "are hesitant to locate in Davao."
"It's very important for investors to feel protected in Mindanao," she said. "Thus we need to have this Investment Defense Force," she added.
With LPSA being held twice in Mindanao, Arroyo said "peace will bring a new era of economic development to Mindanao."
Organized by the National Security Council LPSA was first held in Bohol for Region 7; it then swung to Butuan City for the CARAGA Region. Succeeding LPSAs were held in Tacloban City (Region 8), San Pablo City (CALABARZON), and Masbate City (Region 5).
The recently held LPSA in Tagum City was the second in Mindanao and the sixth being held nationwide, bringing together local government and sectoral leaders together with national government leaders to "agree on approaches that would address issues and concerns affecting peace and security in the locality."
In her speech, President Arroyo explained how her new paradigm for peace through combining "soft and hard power" coupled with increased budget allocation for Mindanao had worked for peace.
"We have been able to meld together confidence-building measures grounded on strong interfaith dialogue and cultural awareness; investments in economic and basic infrastructure development; and mutual security arrangements to keep the peace in Mindanao," she said.
She vowed her administration to continue to work for peace and development in Mindanao, covering efforts to clinch a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but Arroyo specified a timeline until 2010, to end armed rebellion.
Though communist rebels have spent years as low-level threat, Arroyo deemed it "time for their disruption of human rights to be put to rest so that the nation can move ahead."
"They impede the progress and development of a number of rural areas and they are responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses," she said. "If we are to become a First World country, we have to put a stop to their ideological nonsense and their criminal acts once and for all," she added.
She made a specific call to end the operations of 13 New People's Army (NPA) guerilla fronts that had established lairs in Compostela Valley and those in the boundaries of Davao del Sur, Agusan and in Bukidnon.
Along with her relentless drive against terrorism, she bared her decision to extend "the term of AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon for three months because I want him to continue the AFP's current initiatives in fighting terrorism."
However, she wanted campaigns versus terrorism and rebellion to relate with efforts to fight poverty.
She discussed the country's economic strength and stability citing its remarkable 7.3 percent growth last year along with the influx of investments, Peso's strength, and the creation of substantial opportunities for employment. (PIA XI/JMDA) [top]