COTABATO CITY—Moro provinces in the south are taking off from age-old conflict into productivity in improving economic performance and emerging peace efforts, and even turning erstwhile rebel camps into production areas for agriculture.
Earlier, foreign mission representatives visited Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao to launch continuing support programs for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government is represented in both programs by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPPRU) under Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
The first program will restore legal personality for decommissioned former combatants who have lived in hiding and many of them in assumed names as guerrillas. The second program is bilaterally designed to turn former rebel camps into agricultural production areas.
Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said all roads lead to the region’s development aspiration, adding that poverty incidence in BARMM is now down by 20 percent to 59 percent in 2021 from 39 percent in 2019.
European Union Ambassador Luc Véron said the EU has invested in the peace process “because we see remarkable achievements in the Bangsamoro, from developing its government structure to the organization of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.” The envoy added however, that a lot still needs to be done.”
UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez said peace and development “must go hand-in-hand,” adding that: “Today, we celebrate another milestone in this complex but a rewarding journey.”
Galvez said the twin programs would strengthen ground support for the continuance of the Peace Process.
Under the second program which is being supported by the European Union, Spain and Australia, the MILF leadership is opening to massive agricultural development its Camp Darapanan which lies between Maguidanao’s Polloc Freeport and Cotabato City.
Politically, MILF’s Camp Darapanan was the place where the top BARMM leadership endorsed the presidential bid of then Vice-President Leni Robredo. Economically, the same camp is now being opened by Bangsamoro leaders to massive production area for agricultural development— in support to the economic agenda of the new administration, officials have said.
Quoting figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Sinarimbo noted that BARMM’s Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) rose in 2021 by 9.4 per cent to 7.5 percent from 1.9 per cent in 2019.
Sinarimbo said the country’s true last frontier after Palawan and Siargao is Tawi-Tawi, home to rock formation and the largest sandbar in Sapa-Sapa municipality.
The Philippine Airlines’ inaugural flight for the Cotabato-Tawi-Tawi-Cotabato route in mid-June had been overbooked, Sinarimbo said.
He said a 20 per cent decrease has been an unprecedented reduction in poverty incidence for a region that used to have three of the country’s top 20 poorest provinces.
Sinarimbo said BARMM’s 7.5 per cent GRDP growth rate in 2021is the country’s second highest, next to Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) Economic Corridor.
He said the course of BARMM roads development leads to interior communities which are now linked by rural transport services to urban centers including the cities of Cotabato, Pagadian, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga.