DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 September) – The Aquino administration has allotted P260 billion for Mindanao in five years, twice the P130 billion combined allocation by former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1998 to 2010), outgoing Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas, the Liberal Party’s Presidential candidate for 2016, said.
“Under former President Erap who served for nearly three years (1998 to January 2001), the capital outlay for Mindanao was only P25 billion while under Arroyo (who served) nine years (2001 to 2010), the total capital outlay was P105 billion,” he told the “Gathering of Friends” Wednesday at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City attended by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Cabinet secretaries and some 1,800 guests from all over Mindanao, including mayors and governors and representatives of civil society, many of them wearing yellow.
Roxas said what they envisioned for the country when Aquino administration took over in 2010 is slowly turning into reality.
“Pwede na tayong mangarap and nakikita natin ay pagbabago,” (We can dream again and we can see change), he said, adding “what we fight for is not for ourselves but for the future of our country.”
President Aquino said Roxas will continue the developments that he has already started.
“Simula pa lang po ito (We have just started),” Aquino said.
Roxas, who resigned on Monday as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, gave up his Presidential ambition six years ago to give way to Aquino, who became a popular choice for President following the death of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, in August 2009. Roxas ran for Vice President but lost to Jejomar Binay, who is also running for President in 2016.
Aquino reiterated earlier statements that Mindanao can help spur development in the country once peace is attained, citing the island’s strategic location in trading with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Australia.
He also highlighted the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the means to unlock the potential of Mindanao as it would bridge the country to the neighboring economic powers.
The President also spoke of his administration’s achievements, including the expansion of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, also known as Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), and the improved placement rate of vocational graduates of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) under Secretary Joel Villanueva.
“Hindi naman siguro kayo pupunta dito kung hindi kayo kumbinsido (You will not come here if you are not convinced),” he said.
Under the 4Ps, government scholars have reached 300,000 under his administration, 13,000 of whom have finished high school and college with honors.
“Ilang politiko sa buhay nyo ang nangako pero napapako” (How many politicians have promised you but failed to fulfill the promise), he asked.
Aquino also graced the inauguration of Camudmud section of the Island Garden City of Samal circumferential road.
He was joined by his Cabinet secretaries from the departments of Local Government, Tourism, Public Works and Highways, Environment, Transportation and Communications, and Trade and Industry, Climate Change Commission, Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Mindanao Development Authority.
Aquino also met with 500 student leaders at the Teodoro Palma Gil Elementary School who participated in the Treevolution, a tree planting activity held in Tigatto at 7 a.m.
Some 2,000 seedlings of mahogany, narra, cacao, jackfruit, and other fruit trees endemic to the country were planted by students from seven participating public elementary schools — Teodoro Palma Gil Elementary School, Bolton Elementary School, Cesario Villa-Abrille Elementary School, Doña Pilar L. Marfori Elementary School, Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Sr. Elementary School, Magallanes Elementary School, and Wireless Elementary School.
The tree planting activity is part of the continuing efforts to reforest Mindanao and support the objectives of the National Greening Program (NGP), following the signing of Executive Order (EO) No. 26 signed by Aquino on February 24, 2011.
The regreening program is aimed at increasing the region’s forest cover, raise environmental awareness, address climate change and encourage proactive participation for the protection, rehabilitation, conservation, and management of the region’s natural resources.
This year, DENR plans to plant at least 500 seedlings per hectare, or around 9,405,000 trees for the entire Davao Region. (Antonio Colina IV / MindaNews)