DAVAO CITY, Nov 7 — President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday said that Mindanao is “on the cusp of a profound transformation,” as he cited the major developments in the region.
In his speech during the 2014 Philippines Development Forum on Bangsamoro here, President Aquino said the people of Mindanao had been deprived of opportunities and had suffered injustice for many years.
“Now, however, 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.
The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March this year.
“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.
Last September, President Aquino submitted the final draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress.
“At this point, I believe all of us are duty-bound to make our voices heard. Please talk to your representatives so that we can pass a bill that truly represents the interests of all, and benefits all of the people,” he said.
President Aquino also enumerated some of the major institutional reforms in Mindanao, including the synchronization of the elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the national elections.
“It laid the foundations for change by forcing those running for office to contend with one another on a level playing field,” he said.
“In effect, it puts an end to the abuse of elections by national and local leaders alike, and to the mindset that ARMM communities were mere vote banks that one could sell to the highest bidder during national elections,” he added.
He noted that through the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program, the government is improving the living conditions of several Bangsamoro communities by offering cash for work, technical vocational training, study grants, and health insurance premiums.
“We are confident that the Bangsamoro Development Plan can be harmonized through these efforts, and build on the progress we have made at the soonest possible time,” he said.
“The development boost we want to give to Mindanao likewise includes investments in infrastructure, which is necessary for the region to become a competitive destination for investments,” he said.
He cited that from 2011 to 2014, the Department of Public Works and Highways has spent nearly a hundred billion pesos for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in Mindanao. (PCOO-PND)