Manila – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday reiterated his appeal to Filipinos to help the Bangsamoro people overcome the challenges of peace and development, stressing the need to close the gap between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines.
“For generations, fellow Filipinos in the region were embroiled in a cycle of poverty, injustice, and violence. The huge imbalance between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the country served to breed resentment, and consequently insurgency,” he said during the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held in Malacañang.
“When the Bangsamoro people felt that they had no redress within the system, they then tried to address their grievances from outside of the system. We must therefore give them a significant boost up, so that they can catch up: If we are to truly address the root causes of conflict, we must close the gap between the region and the rest of Filipino society,” Aquino added.
He also called on everyone to “widen the avenues for trust and positive engagement” and “cast aside past prejudices, and contribute to the atmosphere of optimism that has, for the first time in a long while, become prevalent in Muslim Mindanao.”
“It should be the paramount concern of all people of good will to do their part: Let us exchange our bullets for ripening fruit, our cynicism for hope, our histories of sorrow for a future of harmony, peace, and prosperity.”
In her speech, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles expressed the Bangsamoro people’s hopes for a “permanent” peace – “the hope that their children will finally have the chance not only to survive, but to live and to thrive in an enduring community.”
“The signal is so strong and unrelenting—no more war, no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees, no more lost schooldays or school-months, no more injustice, no more misgovernance, no more poverty, no more fear and no more want…Tama na (enough), we are all tired of it,” she stated.
The CAB is the GPH and the MILF’s final peace agreement that seeks to end more than four decades of armed conflict that has plagued Mindanao. It serves as basis for the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and will need to be passed by Congress and subjected to a plebiscite towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro – a new political entity that will be granted enhanced political and fiscal powers.
The Bangsamoro will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that has suffered from decades of poverty, corruption, and conflict.