GMA uses Mindanao as front act in seventh SONA

Arroyo listed third among her three priorities in the next three years, "investments in bringing peace to Mindanao; crushing terrorism wherever it threatens regardless of ideology; and putting a stop to human rights abuses whatever the excuse."

She said the priorities will find "record levels of well thought out and generous funding." 

In her past speeches, Ms Arroyo outlined her plans to Mindanao after Luzon and Central Philippines. 

Her promised 30% of the budget from the three regions was partly in response to a recommendation made at the summit on the Human Security Act in Cagayan de Oro on July 9 and 10. The recommendation, however, was for a 30% share of the total budget, not just the budget of three departments.

Her first two priorities, she said, are “investments in physical, intellectual, legal and security infrastructure to increase business confidence and investments in a "stronger and wider social safety net." 

Arroyo said the investments show both sides in the Mindanao conflict that they have “more at stake in common; and a greater reason to be together than divided.”

The President said nothing, however, of the now shaky peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), citing only "inter-faith dialogue, expanded public works and more responsive social services."

But she paid tribute to the 14 Marines killed in Basilan on July 10 and even sent a company of Marines detailed to the Presidential Security Group, to Basilan to run after those who beheaded the Marines.

The send off came two days before the SONA where the President said "it is never right and always wrong to fight terror with terror".

Arroyo said the government “will not be swayed from the course set in the conflict for peace with justice.”

She stressed that the super regions are not gimmick but a blueprint for the future to spread development away from an inequitable concentration in Metro Manila.

"Hindi lamang Maynila ang Pilipinas," (The Philippines is not only Manila).

She stressed on prioritizing agribusiness investments in Mindanao as a food basket citing agrarian reform to "transform beneficiaries into agribusinessmen and agribusiness women".

But her pronouncement on the relocation of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s central office to Davao was not new. It merely showed the plan, announced last year, was not carried out.

Arroyo bragged about having cut the cost of transporting agribusiness products from Mindanao to Luzon via the roll on-roll off system and farm to market roads.

She said they built 30 percent of the planned 1,000 kilometers of farm to market roads for Mindanao out of 3,000 nationwide.

She also cited headways in building better airports, new bridges and ample energy for "Mindanao's rising economy.”

Arroyo cited 190,000 hectares of Jatropha plantation in Bukidnon and General Santos as part of the effort to cut diesel use under the Biofuels Act– also to help fill gaps of the islands energy problem.

Arroyo, however, used Mindanao's energy gap situation, in justifying the Human Security Act as terrorists attack power transmission lines.

While Arroyo cited investing P30 billion in sciences and research, including scholarships to upgrade the know-how of the Filipinos, she cited no Mindanawon among those who won competitions in the field abroad.

The SONA was met with protest actions around Mindanao. At the Rizal Park here, militants held their own SONA calling for Arroyo's ouster and branding her report as "statistics that never trickled down" to the poor.

Columnist Patricio Diaz, reacting to the SONA in an e-group said, “economically, the country has taken off. Let's not deny her the credit due. But to present a vision and tell us that that is the state of the nation is taking us all for naive. …. “

How I wish SONA 2007 could be realized.  The Philippines among the first world countries by 2020. GMA is planning for two presidents after her, unless she stays in power until then.  What she failed to accomplish in six years and a half, she will do in the last three years and a half,” Diaz noted.

"I like that last part of her speech where she told Congress to pass laws addressing extrajudicial killings. Of course, she could not claim that to be her initiative. That belongs to Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynaldo Puno. But I'm disappointed that she did not tell Congress to pass a law criminalizing failure to exercise decisively command responsibility relative to judicial killings.“