CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Approving the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should not only be the initiative to solve the decades-long conflict in Mindanao, a lawmaker from Lanao del Norte said Thursday, September 28.
If the Duterte administration is bent on attaining peace in Mindanao, Lanao del Norte, 1st District Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo said Mindanaoans must be given more than just the empowerment of the Bangsamoro.
“We will never have peace so long as poverty remains persistent,” Dimaporo said. “The national government should strengthen development programs, such as the Pamana Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), which are one of the tools to curb poverty in conflicted-affected areas.”
Pamana or the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” is the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.
Dimaporo said he wants that the government must not solely focus on giving in to the demands of armed groups to correct a social injustice but must allocate its resources and reach out to peace-loving Muslim Filipinos, including his constituents in his home province.
“We keep fighting with one another over control of a territory,” the legislator said in a phone interview on September 28, “but as far as the province of Lanao del Norte is concerned, the prevalence of poverty if our true enemy.”
What Mindanao need from the central government, he said, is for it to pour a part of its resources to the development of the island and its inhabitants.
“The national government can sign as many peace agreements as they want, but so long as poverty thrives in our region, there will always be social unrest. We cannot have sustainable peace without accelerated economic development. This is the position of peace-loving Filipino citizens from Lanao del Norte,” Dimaporo said.
He cited the experience of his province, specifically Barangay Suso in the Kapatagan Valley, which was once of the hotbed of the New People’s Army (NPA) but was transformed when the government implemented various projects in the area.
Through local initiatives and political will, the barangay was bombarded with government projects such as concrete roads, a water system, a multipurpose hall, a day care center, a barangay health station, and livelihood programs.
“The barangay became an example in the province of what we can achieve if we lay down our arms and work together for the benefit of our communities. This approach was replicated in all NPA-influenced barangays until finally, in 2011, we declared Kapatagan Valley as insurgency free,” Dimaporo added.
Under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Dimaporo said he is positive that the BBL will be approved since the members of the Lower House are supportive of its passage as he urged his colleagues the pledge they made to the Philippine Constitution during their oath of office as the deliberate on the proposed law.
The BBL is a mechanism that will give the Bangsamoro and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the autonomy that they have been longing for.
“As early as now, I can confidently say that I will vote ‘yes’ for the Bangsamoro. But, as my oath of office demands, it must conform to the Constitution of our Republic. I will support any move in the House of Representatives to ensure the BBL adheres to our Constitution,” he said.
Duterte has agreed to certify two legislations, one of them the BBL, as urgent.