COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/29 October) – The country’s first Mindanawon President on Saturday vowed to pour money and resources into the Moro region “to improve the Moroland” because “I want the incidence of hunger stopped” in the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“You made me President…. Nangako ako sa inyo na wala na kayong makita na leader, maybe for a long time, na talagang may pagmamalasakit sa inyo,” President Rodrigo Duterte said at the launching of the inter-agency Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda (CRDA) for the ARMM and other Conflict-Affected Areas in regions 9, 10 and 12, at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex at the ARMM compound here.
“You will have a share of the national wealth… bubuhusan ko ang pera ang mga Moro region…. I will improve the Moroland,” vowed Duterte, the first Philippine President who has Moro blood in his veins. His grandmother on the maternal side was a Maranao. Duterte also has Moro grandchildren as his eldest son married a Maranao-Tausug.
The erstwhile Liberal Party-dominated ARMM gave Duterte an overwhelming victory, with 920,743 votes against Roxas’ 272,389. Duterte won in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
He narrated how, on the second Cabinet meeting, he gave instructions to his Cabinet to “please do something” about the ARMM. He said he told Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, “Ma’am, please do something” about the ARMM which has the highest incidence of hunger. “Kawawa yung mga bata” (I pity the children).
He said there will be “massive” intervention to address the problem. “I want the incidence of hunger stopped. Hanapan natin ng paraan even man lang sa pagkain ng mga bata,” said the President.
Records from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that while poverty incidence in the Philippines was 21.1% as of the the first semester of 2015, it was 53.4% in the ARMM and while poverty incidence among population during the same period nationwide was 26.3%, with ARMM posting the highest, at 59.0%.
The CRDA has listed programs, projects and services for the ARMM and conflict-affected areas in the three other regions, among them scholarships from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Commission on Higher Education; water projects from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG); agricultural machinery, equipment and seedlings from the Department of Agriculture; banca, fishing gear and gill nets from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; supplemental feeding from the Department of Social Welfare and Development; opportunities under the Special Programs and Employment of Students beneficiaries of the Departmetn of Labor and Employment; and distribution of PhilHealth cards.
The ARMM itself has two programs called “Apat na Dapat” launched in January 2016 which focuses on the four basic needs – food, water, light and shelter – and ARMM HELPS (Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace and Governance, and Synergy), launched in February 2013 to establish a peaceful and secure environment in the region by providing basic social services especially in relation to HELP.
The two programs, according to ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, are “specifically designed to address the roots of poverty.
In her speech at the launching Secretary Taguiwalo said Duterte “as early as July called our attention to the hunger and malnutrition problem in the ARMM and how our Department should do something about it.”
The President, she noted, “has a built in radar for detecting people’s needs and he is especially concerned with the situation of the children. And for the children of ARMM! He wants to ensure that the children are fed adequately so that they can develop fully and grow into productive adults.”
She said Undersecretary Mae Fe Templa and Director Maristela Abenojar and representatives of other national government agencies in close coordination with the ARMM, designed BANGUN or Bangsa Moro Umpungan sa Nutrisyon which is designed to “engage the active participation of the children, parents, communities and concerned LGUs in the entire process of project implementation; harmonize the technical assistance and services of different government agencies in addressing hunger and malnutrition among children 0-12 years old in ARMM; ensure access of children to culturally-appropriate foods available in the local communities; and increase the weight of underweight and severely underweight children after 180 days of nutrition support.
Currently, the project targets 100% of the identified children aged 0-12 years old who are underweight in the pilot provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, and Lanao del Sur. Particularly these are the municipalities of Datu Salibo, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Jolo, Patikul and Butig which were chosen primarily on the rate of malnutrition in the area.
“We will treat you equally”
Duterte appealed to the predominantly Moro audience: “I make the guarantee na… we will treat you equally. I will see to it yung Moro o Kristiyanos o Igorot will be treated alike sa panahon ko.”
He said he has been waging peace with the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, having promised to implement the peace agreements, but will not talk with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.
“Ayaw ko ng patayan kasi wala talagang mangyari kasi ang nahihirapan ‘yung mga babae pati bata. So what’s the point… Ako na po ang nagsasabi, bigyan ninyo ako ng kaunting panahon. I will improve the Moro land, Mindanao,” he said.
“Basta sa panahon ko marami kayong makuha” (You will get more under my administration),” Duterte promised. He said the hospitals he committed to constructin Basilan and Sulu “will come to rise” by next year.
“There are things here to correct along the way but let me assure you again before I go, I will commit a good part of the Philippines revenue taxes dito sa Basilan, Jolo, Tawi-Tawi pati itong (other areas in the) ARMM. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)