Zubiri bats for bigger Mindanao budget

Zubiri becomes the third candidate from the administration's Team Unity in the winning circle, after senators Edgardo Angara and Joker Arroyo.

He pledge to make Mindanawons proud of his representation as the first senator from the province of Bukidnon, saying his priority is public service and not politics.

Zubiri, in an interview with MindaNews after his inaugural speech, said he meant working to increase Mindanao's share of the national budget from 18 to 25 percent.

He said "the development of Mindanao would mean the development of the Philippines".

He cited that while Mindanao receives less than a fourth of the national budget, it contributes more than 40 percent to the national economy as a food basket and source of natural resources. Given enough support, Zubiri said Mindanao's contribution could even reach 60 percent because it is typhoon-free.

He told a press conference after his speech he will continue to strengthen the Mindanao alliance of governors and legislators, a bloc of Mindanawon decision makers, to work for more projects for Mindanao.

He said he will convene a Mindanao summit after President Arroyo's State of the Nation Address on July 23 to gather support from other elective and appointive officials in Mindanao rooted on inter-faith dialogue and cooperation.

The senator-elect said that the peace and development of Mindanao will be key to the development of the Philippines.

The young legislator said he will propose sound legislation that would benefit Mindanao in priority areas such as job generation, health, education, energy, environment and rural development.

He said he would file a bill to extend the Agriculture and Fisheries Act to help poor farmers and another bill on free health services to the people, using the Bukidnon model his father, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., used.

Zubiri also assured his father he would work for the conversion of thousands of hectares of military reservations around the country for the use of the country's landless.

He said he is for the continuation of the peace process despite what happened in Basilan where 14 Marines were killed and beheaded in an ambush.

He said there should be no rush in condemning the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, batting for coordination with the rebel group and instead called on the MILF to voluntarily surrender the perpetrators.

Zubiri also said he will continue to support the resumption of the peace process with the communist New Peoples Army, who attacked two towns in Bukidnon recently. He pointed out that livelihood and government support, not arm power, will solve the insurgency problem.

He said the public should look closely at the implementation of the much criticized Human Security Act because it is the implementation that is crucial, saying only the Philippines among its Asian neighbors has no law protecting its citizens from terrorists.

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Justice and the Philippine Information Agency should go out to the public to explain the law amidst complaints that it is vague on the public's safety.

He said he is wiling to give up his pork barrel if it will be distributed equally to lower-income municipalities, especially those belonging to the fourth to sixth classes with very minimal internal revenue allotment.

Addressing the homecourt crowd, he said he started the campaign sailing via "vessel BRP Bukidnon, now it is BRP Philippines."


Announcing the May 2007 elections is "finally over" after his proclamation Saturday, Zubiri, introduced as the "pride of Bukidnon," said in his speech to start the healing by offering his hands for friendship and cooperation to the other members of the Philippine Senate whichever party they come from.

He addressed this to his political adversaries, including the other Mindanawon in the senate, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., father of his closest rival, Aquilino III.

Zubiri said he is open to any petition by Pimentel in the Senate Electoral Tribunal and will not have any problem working with the elder Pimentel. He said it is time to unite and work together and put aside politics.

To the oath-taking crowd he said "it is not who you are that matters, it is what you do that defines you. Just do your job well no matter what, together we can make this country great again."

Zubiri's proclamation Saturday came two months after the May 14 polls and after the Supreme Court's "deadlock" decision of 7-7 last Friday that gave no restraint on his proclamation.

He surpassed Pimentel's votes by 19,292 votes. Comelec announced that Zubiri got a total of 11,004,099 votes, while Pimentel garnered 10,984,807.