His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the presentation of Mindanao 2020 & oathtaking of officials from Mindanao
[November 30, 2010, Heroes Hall, Malacañan Palace]
I am glad to be here today with all the individuals who show genuine concern for the peace and development of Mindanao—the members of the MinDA Board, the Mindanao Legislators Association, the Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors League Presidents in Mindanao, and the major development partners who will make most of our planned projects possible: The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund for the Country Programme for Children Phase 6, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Thank you for your attendance.
As you may know, in the past fifteen years, Mindanao has fared well in terms of economic growth and infrastructure development, but the potential for further growth is high: this is why we are here today. Together, we are laying down the core strategies for the growth of the Mindanao region. We are doing this despite the growth: this presentation has only proven the fact that more work must be done so we must make that growth equitable and just. Despite all the so-called gains, poverty still plagues Mindanaoans, and this cannot continue. The bottom line of economic development cannot be seen in the numbers alone. The bottom line is the welfare of our people. Again, this is why we are here today.
The Mindanao 2020 Peace and Development Framework deserves praise for the holistic research they have conducted and the insight they have provided toward the formation of a region where successes demonstrate the fulfillment of your potential. Likewise, those present here today have made laudable commitments toward development. It gives me great satisfaction to tell you that our government is playing its part, and we are already delivering our promise of a transparent and accountable administration.
For internally displaced persons and communities, we will ensure that appropriate intervention is immediately targeted and sent to highly impoverished and vulnerable areas. Mindanao will be at the core of our social development and poverty alleviation programs, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer program, which is already targeting substantial coverage areas within the ARMM. Aside from immediate intervention, we will also set long-term programs for the internally displaced persons, and we are already assured of the continuing patronage of our development partners, such as the European Commission, who are ready to support another phase of our program for the strengthened development of the displaced.
Our administration will also capitalize on the agricultural strengths of the region. We will push for agricultural development in Mindanao by transforming it into a modern agricultural center and the nation’s food basket so that it can become self-sufficient for specific commodities and bolster, more importantly, export competitiveness.
But the vision for Mindanao does not end with being just the nation’s food basket. In the work for Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), the goal of generating investments shall be pursued by actively supporting the initiatives of the business community, industry associations, and private sector groups in Mindanao, as well as in Palawan, and the countries comprising the BIMP-EAGA. We shall harness the rich potentials of our mariculture and halal industry particularly in the ARMM area. Mindanao can become the food processing hub of our country and of the ASEAN countries. We envision and believe that this kind of success is something the region is capable of.
Another issue that contributes to the injustice and lack of development in the region is armed conflict. We believe that peace is the foundation of progress, and we will not rest until we find a resolution that will take the burdens of achieving a little peace and quiet in their lives off the shoulders of the ordinary Filipino citizen. Our citizens are made to bear the consequences of the inner conflict in this country, both in the combat zones and in the bureaucracy. This must end; and our administration is facing these challenges head on so that we can create a unified, peaceful Philippines where our citizenry can fulfill their dreams and where the nightmare of conflict is a thing of the past. Mindanao will be the land of promises fulfilled.
We have begun efforts to restart the peace talks between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Secretary Ging Deles—present today— has started to engage local leaders and stakeholders in Mindanao in a consultative process, and is working doubly hard to get them to rally behind a common ground for the attainment of just, and sustainable, and lasting peace.
As a result of these initiatives and plans, according to the recent Pulse Asia survey, 90% of rural Mindanao, a region blighted by injustice, believes that our administration has improved the economy compared to what it was just 12 months ago. We will not betray the trust of the rural Mindanaoans and of the Filipino people. We will work overtime to ensure that the economy keeps growing, and that the people continue to feel the effects of said growth.
Since our administration took office, we have strived to fulfill our Social Contract with the people; and have thus focused on achieving peace, security, and development in Mindanao. The slow progress in the past few years has been due to a disjointed, short-sighted policy that merely reacts to events and incidents, but this is not what has been displayed by those of you in attendance today. With your help, we will see, in the wake of the reforms and the projects planned, a new Mindanao—one that is free of the aggression and tension that has kept it in the shadows all these years, one that fulfills its potential as a significant contributor to the nation’s success.
Today is the end of such reactionary measures. Today, we take the first steps so that we can both capitalize on one of our country’s richest untapped regions and show the people in this democracy how it is to be truly free, without injustice or deceit. Today is the beginning of Mindanao’s rebirth.
We express appreciation to our partners, JICA and UNICEF, and to the MLA and CONFED for the programs covered by the MOAs signed here today. From creating topographic maps with the goal of peace and development, to taking further measures in protecting women and children, little by little, all of us are making good on this commitment to serve humanity. We hope that you will always stand in solidarity with us in making sure that the Mindanaoans get the peace and quality of life they rightfully deserve. The journey of transformation we have embarked on is long and undoubtedly difficult, and we need each one’s help. It is my sincere hope that the relationships fostered here today will go from strength to strength, allowing us to look toward the future together. Let us make Imperial Manila a thing of the past. I am here to serve you, not boss you around. Mindanaoans are also my boss: just as every citizen, in every part of our archipelago, is my boss.
On behalf of the Filipino people, I thank you all again for your steadfast dedication to and confidence in Mindanao and in our country. The seemingly insurmountable darkness that has kept our citizens in the dark for so long has been driven away by the very same citizens formerly engulfed by it—this is the power of the freedom our heroes sought and fought so valiantly for. We must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to our commitment to make certain that darkness does not eclipse this newfound daylight again. I am grateful to the people present today for doing their part in this. I am confident that your efforts to communicate and elicit constructive discussions will prove fruitful.
Thank you, and before I end: I noticed in the map earlier presented, that all of the airports in Mindanao—the domestic or international—are all located in the coasts. That doesn’t make tremendous sense to me, and I will be directing the director general of NEDA to study the feasibility and the placement of an airport more central in Mindanao so that distances to and from various areas will make more economic sense. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of tension as to where to actually site this central airport. I promise you, you cooperate with each other, that would be a reality sooner rather than later.
Thank you and good day to all.