Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pnoy’s presence in Minbizcon spells Renewed confidence for Mindanao

The presence of President Benigno S. Aquino III, as well as 10 Cabinet Secretaries during the opening of the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference at SMX Convention Center in Davao City Thursday (Aug 8) spelled renewed confidence to Mindanao after the series of bombing in Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) on July 26 in Cotabato City on August 5 and Datu Piang, Maguindanao on August 7.

The President, who arrived almost on time for his 10:30 AM keynote address to the over 1,000 business and government delegates to the Minbizcon, did not waste time and immediately addressed the top concerns of Mindanao today--peace and security as well as the power problem.

“We gather today at a turning point in the history of Mindanao—where this region’s complete transformation from the Land of Promise to the Land of Promises Fulfilled is close at hand,” Mr. Aquino said. However, he enumerated three reasons why this promise has remained elusive to Mindanao: greed over land which has led to the cycle of violence, lack of foresight which led to the power problem and adherence to old solutions which led to the “vicious cycle of impunity and corruption.”
peace and order

While he proudly announced the milestones achieved by his administration in addressing the peace and security issues in Mindanao including the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the signing of the second annex of the agreement last month, he also admitted the existence of “challenges to our stability”. He was referring to the CDO bombing.

“This is a desperate act by a small sector dead set against the attainment of peace in Mindanao,” he said. The government, he added, have been working for a long time to neutralize these elements and have had quite a few successes.

While the President refused to reveal more information about the ongoing investigation on the CDO and Cotabato bombings until he has conferred with his security group, he took a hard stand against the culprits.

“To those willing to partner with us for peace, we welcome you as brothers; but to those who want to challenge the authority of the State, you will feel the full brunt, depth, and might of the State’s response. You will not get in the way of the peace and the stability that will help fulfill the potential of Mindanao.

During the press conference held immediately after his Keynote Speech, Mr. Aquino said the initial assessment of the security group on the bombings is that “three small and loose groups have joined forces and are now desperate to block the Mindanao peace process.”

He said the country’s security groups have been tasked to implement a “hard stand” against these threats. “We are a democratic country but we have many freedoms that they can exploit,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said even Davao has received reports of the intention of these threat groups to sow terror “pero umiiwas sila ditto dahil sa magandang pamamalakad ni Mayor Duterte (they are avoiding Davao because of Duterte). They are now looking for areas that are easy to target.

“I am calling on greater citizen involvement to act as force multiplier to our security services,” he said, He said greater involvement from the people will discourage terrorism.

power crisis

While he admitted that some parts of Mindanao were experiencing eight-hour brownouts a few months ago, he said the government did everything, from rehabilitating existing power plants to purchasing or renting generator sets and setting up a loan facility for electric cooperatives, to tide Mindanao over until 2015 when the government will be able to address the power deficit.

“Right now, we are on track to end the energy deficit by 2015—during which we foresee Mindanao to already have a surplus,” he said. However, he chided those who are opposing the generator sets, saying that they are either too expensive or harmful to the environment now that it is the rainy season. “Come the dry season, will we expect the litany of complaints about brownouts to resume?” he asked.

Mr. Aquino blamed Mindanao’s power problems to “the years of complacency and short-sightedness” which came as a result of the island having the best of both worlds.

“As much as we wanted to, we could not solve this problem overnight. 200 megawatts of power cannot be bought in a corner hardware store. It takes a minimum of three years to build a coal power plant, which is why the moment we stepped into office, we worked to enact the structural changes necessary to attract more investors in the power sector in Mindanao,” he said.

Sebastian Angliongto, another pillar in Davao and Mindanao’s business sector, said he is very confident that all the peace and security problems will be addressed in due time. However, he said, Mindanao has many concerns including power which should be addressed by the Aquino administration in preparation for the Asean economic integration.

Former Davao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. President Joji Ilagan Bian said Aquino’s presence in the Minbizcon is a boost to the confidence of Mindanao’s business sector. She said most Presidents have attended the Conference during their first year in office but Aquino failed to do that. However, she added, he made up for it by being here during his third year.

“The President addressed Mindanao’s economy, infrastructure problems and logistics and these are very important issues for business people in Mindanao,” she said. If you are doing business here in Mindanao, she added, then power is a very serious concern and he has managed to focus on that. However, she said, “I wished he also mentioned the aquaculture and marine industries since we are very rich with this.”

By being here today, she said, the President managed to tell Mindanaoans that “Mindanao is on top of the list.” 

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