Mindanao as economic cog

Whether by design or misguidance, Mindanao has always been portrayed on the darker side of things, often associating Moro identity with ambushes and drugs, which are not what the Islamic people of the South are about. However, at a time when normalcy has slowly crept into the consciousness of the Mindanao settlers, news of ambuscades has again surfaced, providing the chatterbox with stories that once again malign the region.

But Mindanao, warts and all, is a peaceful region despite the opposing perceptions we hear or read in the news. In fact, the historical bloody uprisings that wracked Mindanao and Sulu over a century ago were not an affront to Filipinos or Christians, but towards colonial bigotry. The unrest, in general, is a declaration of the right to be respected in one’s birthplace.

The Bangsamoro people, typically business-oriented, are imperfect as they are vehement when their freedoms are challenged, and their territories disrespected. The same hostile temper is expected of other Filipinos if the sacred liberties due them are unnecessarily violated.

Mindanao’s image has been the victim of misinformation, often by developed countries that, in a display of ‘concern’ towards their expats, issue bulletins warning their citizens to avoid southern Philippines. On the domestic front, the mislabel is echoed in the absence of inclusion by the government in the country’s national agenda for development, particularly in tourism.

Amid the disparity, Mindanao, by sheer endurance, has slid out of the jungle to brandish its pride. With the secessionist movement gone, the local governments have pushed an aggressive agenda of growth, such as hosting socio-cultural events that reflect the beauty and resources of the place. Still, in order to enhance this undertaking, the need to link remote publics with better roads is the key to unlocking the South as an economic hotspot outside of the metro.

Although Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga Peninsula have already established themselves as growth centers, introducing an all-encompassing plan that sells the Sulu Archipelago as an economic and tourism hub has more impart in achieving peace and order outside the tons of assurances administrations promise as a matter of political convenience.

The clapping of hands and the heaping of praises should now stop. Instead, the national leadership, in consultation with the civil leaders of the South, must tweak its budgetary priorities by giving Mindanao a larger share of the national purse. Quoting American scientist Albert Einstein, “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” Without this direction in mind, things cannot take off.

Mindanao is not about Moros, Christians, and the indigenous peoples; it is about a region that for decades has been the central resource of raw materials for the country. With some bright prospects of finding subterranean sources for gas and related potentials now confirmed, with more reason that the national leadership must redirect its priorities to an island whose historicity is as rich as the capacities it can offer to nation-building.

Always misinterpreted, the time for Mindanao to be considered an economic cog in the overall growth of a nation is now, and mustalso be a focus of interest even outside the Philippine borders. Developing the South, which is profuse in wealth, means enriching the country.


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