The thorniest issue between the Philippine government, on one hand, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on the other, was finally resolved over the weekend.
The bulk, or 75 percent, of the earnings from natural resources will go to the local government to be established, using the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as its base.
Wealth sharing had threatened to create a stalemate on the negotiations. All other key issues had been agreed upon, but merely acceding to the demands of the MILF where the national patrimony was concerned was a tricky issue. There was, after all, the Constitution to contend with.
But with the last major detail between the two sides finally hammered out after lengthy discussions in Kuala Lumpur, the final agreement practically becomes a done deal.
For the future Moro region, the question that needs to be asked goes thus: What happens next?
Over the past few decades after ARMM had been established, no true progress in terms of economic development was attained. ARMM remains at the tail end among the country’s regions where development is concerned. It has the lowest per capita income, and unemployment is the worst in the entire country.
Hopefully, the new political entity to be formed in the near term will not suffer the same fate as ARMM.
The earnings from the natural resources should go a long way in creating a more progressive region.
Since peace and order will no longer be an issue, there should be no excuses why an environment conducive to greater investments should not be attained at once. There is no doubt that the area covered is rich and fertile. The only thing needed is for the residents to elect leaders whose main priority will be economic development.
One reason why ARMM is considered a failure is because most of its elected leaders were former rebels who had no inkling on how to manage a territory during peaceful times.
Nur Misuari is the classic example of an effective rebel leader whose political savvy in the international area gave credibility to his Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
It was Misuari’s MNLF which ruled the ARMM for a number of years, during which time opportunity after opportunity was squandered. The global goodwill that existed in the early years of the ARMM was believed to be the catalyst for the entry of local as well as foreign investors, specifically from the Arab world and neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
When it became clear that the ARMM was being financially mismanaged, the would-be investors disappeared in droves. Even the country’s taipans and major investment houses avoided the area like the plague. And who could blame them?
Now, with a new autonomous region to be created, and with a big share in the bounty that comes from the wealth of the land, it will be up to the residents of the area to elect leaders who have a clear economic agenda, one that should result in the wealth being spread to the greatest number.