P260B allotted for Mindanao infrastructure projects

Published by rudy Date posted on October 15, 2012

THE administration-controlled Senate has given assurances that close to P260 billion has been set aside for various infrastructure projects in Mindanao for 2013.

The assurance was given by “administration” Sen. Frank Drilon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, who said the implementation of the projects would be hastened by the peace deal the government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Monday.

“In the proposed 2013 budget now being deliberated in Congress, we have allotted P258.4 billion for Mindanao,” said Drilon, chairman of the committee reviewing the annual budget bill. Earlier in Malacañang, supporters and authors of the just-signed peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said much work lay ahead in fulfilling the commitments made under the pact, which would be fleshed out to produce a comprehensive agreement before the end of year.

“Much work remains to be done in order to fully reap the fruits of this Framework Agreement,” President Aquino said just minutes before the government and MILF panels signed the Framework Agreement at the jampacked Malacañang Rizal Hall.

The President said that after the signing ceremony, the panels would now work on the annexes to the agreement which would “provide us with a solid opportunity to expand the common ground whose principles we have already articulated through the agreement.

“But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. We are now at the beginning of a comprehensive agreement that will map out the detailed steps, detailed commitments, and detailed programs that will lead to the fulfillment of our long-term goals,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said the government was committed to helping the MILF.

“We are committed to enabling our partners to transform themselves to a genuine political party that can help facilitate the region’s transition toward a truly peaceful and progressive place.

He said this year, the government has committed P8.59 billion for the Transition Investment Support Plan or the stimulus fund for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), on top of the P12.93 billion already allotted in the budget.

“This agreement not only marks a new chapter in our history; it now defines the very path we take as a people—one where opinions are heard and hope is shared; where understanding and consensus breed meaningful solutions for all stakeholders; one where every child is offered the opportunity to shape his own destiny,” he said.

In his speech, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak recognized the challenges facing the peace deal and expressed the readiness of Malaysia, the third-party facilitator of the peace process with the MILF, to be a Philippine “partner in peace” through the provision of training, education and land development skills to the Bangsamoro people.

“I give my assurance to all the people of the Philippines, we will stand with you to make this agreement work,” said Najib, who attended the signing ceremony upon the invitation of Mr. Aquino.

He said the Framework Agreement was only the “beginning” as “it does not solve all the problems” but “sets the parameters in which a lasting peace may be found.”

“On this day of hope and promise, we should not forget the challenges that remain. The ink on this paper will not save a single life unless it is matched with a true and immovable commitment to peace…. All parties must stand by the principles on which this agreement rests: respect for religion, non-violence and human rights,” Najib said.

He said after four decades, peace is finally “within reach” in Mindanao.

“Let us grasp with both hands and never let go,” Najib said.

Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles expressed confidence that while the road to lasting peace in Mindanao would not be easy, supporters of the peace process would help ensure that all such obstacles would be overcome.

“So many challenges await us, but the bridge of trust that spans this room is strong enough to withstand the trials ahead, however difficult they may be. Never again shall we allow that bridge to be undermined, weakened, or destroyed by the forces of greed, avarice and envy,” Deles said.

In his speech, MILF Chairman Murad Al Haj Ebrahim urged the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)—apparently referring to the faction of MNLF founder Nur Misuari—“to support the framework agreement and take this historic journey with us to rebuild our Bangsamoro homeland.”

“This is not the time for recrimination. This is the time for unity, the time for all of us to think, act and speak as one Bangsamoro, as we summon all our strength to face the daunting tasks [ahead].” Murad said.

He traced the roots of the MILF’s 40-year-struggle and why it finally agreed to sign the Framework Agreement.

“We are here to put an end to the adversarial relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine nation,” he said, adding that the President’s parents—the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and President Corazon Aquino—like the MILF had fought against the Marcos dictatorship.

Murad said the Framework Agreement could be considered as a “victory for the Bangsamoro people and the Filipino nation…earned not by war but by that collective desire tempered by the inner nobility of human nature to restore justice and peace.”

He said the Framework Agreement was the “greatest tribute” to departed MILF leaders led by Chairman Hashim Salamat who passed away in 2003, and to all the slain fighters of the MILF and the MNLF.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said in an interview after the ceremony that investors are expected to show more interest in Mindanao’s development following the signing of the peace deal.

“There are those interested even before this. But I guess with such an agreement, then we expect that there will be more interest in the future in the areas of power, mining, agriculture, including palm-oil plantations being considered by Malaysia for some time now. And some manufacturing perhaps,” Domingo said.

He said the peace agreement “sends a very positive signal to potential investors.”

Asked to estimate the potential investments in Mindanao with the signing of the Framework Agreement, Domingo said, “It’s hard to say but obviously Mindanao is very rich in natural resources. The potential is huge. We’re just tapping a very small percentage of what it could be, maybe just 10 percent to 20 percent only of the potential.

Responding to questions in a news briefing, MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the most difficult issue encountered during the negotiations for the Framework Agreement was on the police force for the Bangsamoro, and what made them overcome this was their “perseverance” and the “creativity” of the Malaysian facilitator.

On concerns about the MILF breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Iqbal said it “has no legitimacy so they will fade away in due time.”

Iqbal declined to comment on the issue of decommissioning MILF forces provided under the Framework Agreement, as this would still have to be further discussed.

The next round of talks would be held sometime in November, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When asked, Iqbal said the MILF wants the peace agreement to be implemented during the Aquino administration, as it saw Mr. Aquino as “a very reliable partner.”

At the signing ceremony, the speakers—Mr. Aquino, Najib, Murad and Deles—took turns thanking each other and various foreign governments and institutions that supported and were involved in the peace process.

The President thanked Najib and said his “commitment to our peace process shone as a beacon of peace to the international community.”

The President cited Deles and Chief Peace Negotiator Marvic Leonen for being “true exemplars of public service.”

He lauded Iqbal “who approached the process cognizant of our shared aspirations for peace” and “kept an open mind, which enabled compromise without sacrificing the interests of the Bangsamoro people.”

The President said Murad “even while striving for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, remained an astute statesman who realized that progress lay in building consensus among the many stakeholders in the region.”

“He led not with dogmatism or hardened ideology, but with a flexibility and open mindedness borne of trust. We all owe him our collective thanks,” he said.

Mr. Aquino first met Murad in August 2011, in Tokyo, Japan, to boost peace negotiations with the MILF.

“We looked at each other as brothers, responsible and committed to the attainment of the aspirations of our people. This mindset, I am certain, percolated throughout the negotiating process and our respective panels. We now all share in the triumph of this Framework Agreement,” he said.

The President thanked the governors of the ARMM for supporting the agreement and also for the “hard work” they are expected to exert in doing so.

Najib lauded Mr. Aquino “for his strong unwavering resolute commitment to durable peace in the Southern Philippines”; Murad “for his strong leadership in the peace process and for his personal choice over the path of conflict”; Chief Peace Negotiators Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal; and the Malaysian facilitator.

The Malaysian Prime Minister also thanked his predecessors, Mahathir Mohammad and Abdullah Badawi “for initiating and honoring their commitments to the peace process,” and the Malaysian contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT). –Butch Fernandez and Mia M. Gonzalez / Reporters, BUsinessmirror

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