DAVAO CITY: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday expressed optimism on the development of Mindanao as the government’s peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) gains headway with the expected passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law next year.
Aquino attended the presentation of the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), a post-conflict socio-economic roadmap spearheaded by the Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA), the same body that implements the Mindanao Trust Fund.
The president said he is confident that the BDP can be “harmonized with the developments” already in placed in Mindanao, particularly in areas to be covered by the Bangsamoro that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The President cited the progress in the region since he took office.
“More than any point of history, the Mindanao we all aspired for is within reach, the progress is palpable and it is apparent that our efforts are having a profound effect,” he said.
“As Mindanao is becoming an increasingly stable environment, we can see that the region is on the cusp of a profound transformation: from being a Land of Promise to being a Land of Promises Fulfilled,” he said.
“Now, more than ever, it is vital that we focus on getting through the next steps in the process: Getting the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed in Congress, which would establish the Bangsamoro as a political entity,” he said.
The Japanese government has pledged to give 15 billion Yen or more than $131 million for the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD), a program that focuses on capacity building, community development, and mid-term regional development.
In a statement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, through deputy chief of mission Tetsuro Amano, reiterated its willingness to help the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government.
“The government of Japan stands ready to strengthen assistance for comprehensive growth in Mindanao,” Abe said in the statement read by Amano during the forum.
“It is expected that the peace process in Mindanao will serve as a valuable precedent for various peace-building efforts in the world,” said Abe in the statement. “Having hoisted the banner of ‘proactive contributor to peace’ based on the principle of international cooperation, Japan is making numerous efforts aimed at active contribution to the regional and international peace, stability and prosperity more than ever.”
Meanwhile, Aquino hinted that the development of the Bangsamoro can be propelled by the gains of the current ARMM government.
During the first nine months of 2014, investments in ARMM reached an all-time high P3.37 billion or double the 2013 figure of P1.46 billion, and almost six times higher than the P569 million in 2012.
In 2011, the growth domestic product of ARMM was only 0.3 percent and ended at 1.2 percent in 2012. The GDP increased to 3.6 percent in 2013 and the goal this, he said, is reach 5 percent, something that is “very attainable.”
“Our goal is to uplift our fellowmen and for them to live dignified lives,” Aquino said, “Then, we will achieve what we have hoped for all these years. Together, we will realize our vision of a new a Mindanao—one seen by the global community as a region of skilled, talented and peace loving people.”
MILF vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar, said the BDP is “inclusive to the Bangsamoro.”
“It ensures that the overall goal is to build the foundations of a functioning Bangsamoro, just and inclusive economy,” he said.
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell, who also attended the event, said the BDP “is a milestone to lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao.”
“Good governance and the delivery of services play a critical role in the process to peace and prosperity in Mindanao,” Tweddell said.
“If the people of the Bangsamoro see tangible benefits, they will continue to support peace,” he added.
Australia has been supportive of peace efforts in conflict-affected Mindanao since 1995.
It provided a A$15-million funding support to partners from government, civil society and the academe.
Australia also provided A$4 million support through multilateral facilities such as the World Bank-managed Mindanao Trust Fund and the joint UN-World Bank Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (Fastrac).
JEFRY M. TUPAS WITH CATHERINE VALENTE AND BERNICE CAMILLE BAUZON