Peace in Mindanao to open floodgates to development of resource-rich region
Manila (30 July) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that peace in Mindanao would open the floodgates to the development of the resource-rich region, which has been caught in an alternating current of bloody conflict and an uneasy peace over the last 50 years.
In her State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday at the opening of the second regular session of the 14th Congress at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City, the President lamented that the development of Mindanao, the Philippines' original "Land of Promise," has been derailed by the unresolved conflict in the area.
Kidnappings for ransom by the bandit group Abu Sayyaf have added a highly combustible mix to the Mindanao conflict.
In her 2006 SONA, the President identified Mindanao, along with North Luzon, as the country's food basket.
But while the development of North Luzon's agricultural potentials continues to gain momentum, that of Mindanao has failed to keep pace with that of Luzon.
The poverty statistics say it all. The President said Mindanao does not only have some of the highest poverty incidences, six of the country's poorest provinces are in Mindanao.
The principal reason for poverty in the area is the endless conflict, President Arroyo pointed out.
Mindanao has not been wanting in sympathy from countries offering help to lift the region and its people from poverty. These countries include Libya, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia.
No other region in the country has received so much assurance of assistance than Mindanao.
In her 2006 SONA, President thanked the various donors and multinationals for helping her administration's efforts to establish a lasting peace and promote development in Mindanao.
"I take this occasion to express our gratitude to the donor community from the US, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and the European Union, Australia, Japan, our Asean neighbors, the multinationals and the rest of the world.
She pointed out that with peace in Mindanao, "we would reap dividends in resources invested in agribusiness, not aggression, to build up, not tear down, the Philippine south."
The volatility of the Mindanao situation and the zig and zag of the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao was amply demonstrated once again when, a day before the President's 8th SONA, the talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur collapsed over the crucial issue of ancestral domain.
But within hours, the talks was back on track. The President herself announced the good news in her SONA. "But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with utmost sobriety and patience," she said, as she asked Congress to act on pivotal reforms that would lead to a "just and lasting peace (in Mindanao) during our term of office."
She added: "The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world." (PIA-MMIO) [top]