BULUAN, Maguindanao: A Malaysian envoy expressed assurance of his country’s continued support to the peace process in Mindanao to help make the island region a “food basket” not only in the country but also in Asia, with or without the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Consul General Abdullah Zawawi Tahir conveyed the pledge in two occasions here on Monday, during the opening rites for Maguindanao’s 5th Sagayan Festival and at the kick-off event for the province’s Trade Expo.
Tahir said the pursuit of the peace process is vital in alleviating poverty and socio-economic inequities that gave birth to the Moro rebellion.
The passage of the BBL, a by-product of the Philippine government’s peace accords with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front brokered by Malaysia as third country facilitator, got bypassed in the present Congress.
Some quarters have expressed fears of renewed widespread fighting in Mindanao as a result of the BBL’s fate in Congress.
But Tahir pointed out that “even without BBL, as long as there is support from the people and the government, we will continue to (help in the) search for lasting peace in Mindanao.”
“Basically, we do not know what’s going to happen next (after the non-passage of the BBL). Only the people of the Philippines will determine the right path for peace. As far as the Malaysian role (is concerned), we will continue to support the initiative of the people and the government of the Philippines in the peace process,” Tahir said.
The Davao-based envoy also urged stakeholders to be patient with the Mindanao peace process, stressing the need for sacrifice in the search for lasting peace.
He added that Malaysia has been involved in peace mediation not only in Mindanao but also in Southern Thailand, Namibia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and other countries.
“Malaysia has proven its neutrality, commitment, and sincerity for long-lasting peace in the countries where we have been invited,” he said.
Tahir was keynote speaker at the opening of the weeklong Sagayan Festival, a yearly event designed five years ago by the provincial government to showcase the development gains, potentials and local strides in Maguindanao.
The envoy also lauded the Mangudadatu administration’s consistent support to the peace process in a fashion he described as a stepping board for the tremendous growth in the erstwhile, impoverished Maguindanao.
He recalled having travels across Mindanao three years ago and noticed bad road networks and vast tracks of idle lands in Maguindanao. This time, he said, Maguindanao enjoys well-paved wide roads and wide areas of cultivated banana, oil palm and rubber farms.
Meanwhile, Tahir also announced the upcoming convergence in Davao City by 200 key officials of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine/Economic Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) on Feb. 24-26 to tackle various concerns, including the Mindanao peace process.
Through the BIMP-EAGA channels, Malaysia has invested at least P5-billion in agro-industrial ventures in Mindanao alone last year.