“Terrorism in Mindanao is state-initiated, therefore, it follows that poverty in Mindanao is also caused by the Arroyo government.”
This was the statement of Gabriela women’s party representative Luzviminda Ilagan, following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s claim during the state of the nation address (SONA) that her administration’s failure to alleviate poverty in Mindanao is due to the endless conflict in the Philippines’ second largest island.
“The state-declared ‘war on terror’ supposedly aimed to maintain peace in Mindanao turned out to be a ‘war of terror’ intended to protect the US and Arroyo’s financial and political interests. She deployed members of the military even in conflict-free areas to silence the people who oppose her so-called development projects,” the solon from Davao said.
The massive military operations in the southern part of the Philippines effectively displaced thousands of families, who, for fear for their lives chose to leave their homes and their sources of livelihood behind. Small farmers have complained that in eking a living, they are constantly starting all over again.
Mindanao, the food basket of the Philippines, was reported to have six out of the ten poorest provinces in the country and has the highest incidence of hunger in the nation. The food crisis, which pegged the price of rice at an all-time high of 50 pesos per kilo, increased the number of people who can not meet their daily food needs to 64 percent this year from 62 percent in 2007. The rate of malnutrition among children also rose, especially in ARMM were it reached 35 percent from 31 percent in 1995, as children were forced to skip meals.
But according to Ilagan, the conflict and therefore poverty in Mindanao is not endless. If only the government will pursue negotiations on domain claims and respect the rights of the people living in ancestral lands, there is a chance to resolve the enduring conflict in the area.
“It is the government which quashes any hope of peace in Mindanao. Arroyo’s on-and-off peace talks and anti-terror policy are being used to bail her out of a sagging popularity due to her failure to resolve economic and political crises in the country,” Ilagan said.
The progressive solon also suggested that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) push through with the elections, as postponement will benefit no one but the Arroyo administration, because it will extend the terms of her political allies in Mindanao.#
Rep. Luz C. Ilagan 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619Poverty