Friday, June 10, 2016

The President speaks at the launch of Junctures, a book about the peace process

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

The President speaks at the launch of Junctures, a book about the peace process

launch Junctures peace process
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the launching of Junctures: Selected Speeches and Statements, about the peace process between Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
[Delivered in Malacañan Palace, Manila, on June 9, 2016]

Not too many years ago, negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had reached an impasse. While both sides recognized the importance of peace, the conflict had gone on for four decades, and there was an understandable lack of faith between the two sides. It was in that context, and then, that I decided to fly to Tokyo to meet with the leaders of the MILF under Chairman Murad, and—finally—we began to build the trust necessary for the peace process to move forward.

Some quarters criticized this decision. They said that meeting with rebels was unpresidential, and that there was no guarantee of success. For me, however, such concerns were eclipsed by the potential benefit for our nation—by the possibility that we may finally end a conflict that has brought suffering to far too many Filipinos.

The results speak for themselves. By October of 2012, we witnessed the signing of a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. By March of 2014, there was a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. And now, we remain hopeful for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the incoming Congress.

There is a long way to go, and many of us who worked so hard for peace are fearful, apprehensive, and unsure. It is true that the culmination of our efforts has been delayed. Today, however, I ask you to remember and take strength from the progress we have made. There is no denying that, thanks to our shared efforts, our countrymen in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are enjoying the dividends of peace; we have been able to give those in ARMM a significant boost up to catch up; and we are seeking to build a structure that promotes true leadership and public service in the region, as opposed to the previous status quo, where strongmen addressed only their own families’ needs, and, by chance, the needs only of their own tribe.

Over the past six years, as we have worked for peace, the government has likewise worked to provide critical support to the ARMM. Look at infrastructure: From 2011 to 2016, the national and regional governments invested a total of 61.64 billion pesos in roads, bridges, and flood-control projects in the region, compared to just around 11 billion from 2005 to 2010. Among the projects we finished was the long-awaited Basilan Circumferential Road, which began construction in the year 2000, as well as the improvement of eight ports and two airports to promote regional connectivity.

We have undertaken major projects to empower the people. There is the 4Ps program, whose coverage in the region has skyrocketed, from 37,564 households as of June 2010 to 442,924 under our administration. We improved education and healthcare. From 2011 to 2015, we have built 5,018 classrooms in ARMM, and we have seen a marked improvement in the region’s classroom-to-student ratio, which has gone from 1 classroom for 82 children in the 2010 to 2011 school year for high school, to 1 in 33 in the 2014 to 2015 school year. We have validated the licenses of public school teachers in the region to make sure they are providing quality education. Through TESDA, we’ve also provided skills training programs to around 25,000 beneficiaries in ARMM. We have likewise addressed the shortage of medical professionals in the rural areas by deploying 109 doctors, 3,855 nurses, 300 midwives, 22 dentists, and 78 public health associates from 2011 to 2015. On top of this, we also expanded access to electricity—electrifying 846 target sitios from July 2011 to March 2016.

We’ve talked to the communities to ask about their most pressing needs, and—from 2013 to 2015—have funded a total of 1,133 poverty-reduction projects in ARMM, totaling 2.60 billion pesos. These projects include the provision of livelihood opportunities, potable water supplies, medicine and shelter assistance, among others.

Let us not forget: Having an honest and accountable regional government—together with a relatively more peaceful and stable environment—is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the any economy, both national and regional. This is why we required transparency in the disclosure of the funds and projects by the ARMM regional line agencies. We likewise ensured competitiveness in the bidding process by requiring the use of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website in publishing all bid notices. The results have been undeniable: BOI-ARMM-approved investments in the region have increased from 87.9 million pesos in 2010, to 6.58 billion pesos in 2015 alone. In fact, from 2010 to 2015, total actual investments have already amounted to 14.3 billion pesos. There is no doubt: Confidence in the region is at an all-time high, and perhaps there is no greater indicator of this than the international business conference that was held in Tawi-Tawi in 2014, which was attended by more than 400 businessmen, not to mention the increase of tourists in Tawi-Tawi, from a mere 200, to tens of thousands in 2014.

These are only a few pieces of good news from ARMM; and there is a lot more to come if we continue along the road to a true and lasting peace. This is the right path. It is a path that has benefited those in the margins of society; and it is a path that heals the fractures within the country we share. And the message that we now send to our countrymen is: We must continue along this path. In 21 days, I will be stepping down from office, but to all of you in attendance today, and to each person of goodwill who wishes to fulfill the promise of Mindanao, I will remain your friend and ally. Tell me how I can help this process, even as an ordinary citizen, and I will be by your side.

The book we launch today tells of the journey we have taken these past six years. We launch it fully aware that the journey is still ongoing—that there are more challenges we must overcome, and triumphs that await all of us. It instills in us the awareness that we are, once more, at a juncture, where we must choose between reverting to the status quo of the past, or continuing our progress far into the future. At the same time, I am also hopeful that it will remind us of the successes we have enjoyed so far—that it may stand as an enduring symbol of our restored faith in one another—not as opponents in a negotiating table, but as fellowmen who share a home. I truly believe that our combined efforts can bring about a Mindanao—and a Philippines—that is free from conflict, one that we can be proud to bequeath to future generations.
Thank you. Good day.

GPH Website





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