“Of the 900 billion pesos national budget in year 2005, P600 billion went to foreign debt servicing, that is why more than 26 Million Filipinos today are living below poverty line” Jolly Lais, Assalam secretary–general said in a press conference here on April 12.
“We have the National Anti-Poverty Commission which is only coordinative and does not have big budget for its anti-poverty program,” Lais noted.
Assalam, which claims to be pro-development and pro-marginalized sectors, urged voters to vote for partylist groups coming from Mindanao.
“More representatives from Mindanao representing marginalized sectors will work for the welfare of the Mindanaoans, if given the chance to win this May elections,” Pendatun Disimban, Assalam’s first nominee, said.
Disimban was confident Assalam could win a seat in Congress with the support of Moro, Lumads and settlers in Mindanao and even people in Metro Manila. “All we need is around 350 thousand votes to have a seat in congress,” he pointed out.
Lais said the government must allocate a bigger fund for Mindanao as it contributes much to revenue generation.
“Mindanao is the food basket of the country. Being typhoon-free and having vast untilled lands, this island, which has big potential for agro-industrial production, can still be developed,” Lais said.
She stressed that in order to develop Mindanao economic infrastructure focused on people’s empowerment, sustainable agriculture, management trainings and IT-based agri-data banking must be given due attention.
She said poor Filipinos must have descent homes, livelihood or employment, proper nutrition program, economic enterprise, good education, and government employees especially teachers must have sufficient wages.
Disimban said they will also push for an anti-discrimination bill and enforcement of sectoral representation in the local government units.
“We must also urge congress to review the GRP-MNLF peace agreement,” he said.
He doubted, however, if other rebel groups could be convinced to talk with the government with the way the peace pact with the MNLF has been implemented.