LAST Monday, Business Monitor International (BMI) issued a study that concluded Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be harmful to the economy, due to the increased security risks and political uncertainty that would hinder investment and development in Mindanao.
BMI acknowledged that the adjournment of Congress for the election season eliminated any chance that the BBL could even be addressed, and that there was “limited support” for the measure among the leading presidential candidates, as well as widespread public pressure to reject it. Despite the glaring lack of enthusiasm for the BBL, BMI stressed that without it, “The government’s budget will be constrained by the need to allocate resources to internal security issues and investment in infrastructure and education will suffer, diminishing the Philippines’ otherwise promising economic potential.”
BMI is the research arm of the Fitch Group, which among the big three ratings agencies, appears to be, at least from what we have observed over the past couple of years, the most prone to praise the administration of President BS Aquino 3rd. In that context, we find BMI’s view rather meddlesome.
It is not necessarily unexpected or out of line for an economic think tank to pass judgment on an internal political matter, but when that agency is an integral part of one that is able to exercise tangible influence – in the form of sovereign ratings – over the economic well-being of the country, a bit of circumspection is in order. As it is, BMI’s study–so blatantly favoring an agreement that the Filipino people already recognize as being very likely illegal according to our Constitution, and at a minimum grossly unfair to the country and to the majority of stakeholders in the conflict areas of Mindanao–constitutes meddling in sovereign affairs, and must be condemned in the strongest terms.
We do not disagree that the lack of peace in Mindanao is harmful to the economy; after all, that has sadly been the prevailing state of the Philippines’ troubled south for decades. But any worsening of that situation – an increase in business security risk, to put it in the same terms used by BMI – could only be caused by the reaction of the MILF and associated rebel groups to the rejection of their demand to Balkanize the Philippines in exchange for halting their terrorist activities.
BMI seems to be suggesting, in effect, that the Philippines willingly succumb to extortion.
There must be peace in Mindanao, as we have always firmly and consistently maintained, because the economic, political, and social repression of the South and its people cannot be permitted to continue. But a law which operationalizes a peace agreement that raises a single group with vested interests – and at that, a minority group among the population affected by the conflict – above all others and bypasses or willfully violates our laws in the process is not, as the vast majority of our people have come to realize, the way to achieve peace.
We would hope that the next time BMI – or for that matter, any similar organization – feels compelled to offer an opinion on an important political matter in our country, they would do so with a much better appreciation of the complexities of the issue, and not aggravate it with narrow-view alarmism.