Press Release
August 7, 2011

Jinggoy: Mindanao dev't could gain fresh impetus with PNoy-MILF meet

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said concrete development initiatives for Mindanao could gain much-needed fresh impetus, following a meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Tokyo, Japan.

The President met and discussed the government's peace efforts with the leadership of the MILF, headed by its chair, Murad Ebrahim in a suburb in Tokyo where both parties agreed to settle negotiations within the current administration.

The meeting, described by Malacañang as a move that "facilitates progress of the formal negotiations between the government and the MILF panels," was held in Japan, with that country being a member of the International Contact Group and International Monitoring Team which are bodies involved in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF. Several quarters regarded the meeting as "a major move toward the attainment of peace and development in Mindanao."

Estrada said, "An atmosphere of trust and well intentions between the two parties could now provide the needed boost to development initiatives in Mindanao."

The senator earlier pushed for the creation of the Mindanao Development Authority to effect desired development in the region. The measure paved the way for the enactment of such a body under Republic Act (RA) 9996.

Among such development initiatives, he said, is the construction of a modern railway system in Mindanao which would strengthen the region's standing and productivity as "the country's food basket" and would thus likewise tremendously aid to the progress of the country as well as that of other regions and provinces that trade with it.

Based on data, Mindanao, having natural features ideal for agriculture, has been producing about 40 percent of the total food requirements of the whole country and some 30 percent of the national trade on food and other farm products, especially: rubber, pineapple, cacao, banana, coffee, corn and coconut.

Estrada has been pushing for a railway system network covering strategic areas of the country, including Mindanao, to further advance the said trade and facilitate investments in the region.

A Mindanao railway project was later approved to cover Laguindingan to Cagayan de Oro City; Laguindingan to Iligan City; Cagayan de Oro to the Phividec area in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental; and Iligan City to Linamon town, Lanao del Norte. The project, however, was stalled.

"With the peace process expected to be given new impetus by the President's meeting with the MILF, we may look forward to finally proceeding with the construction of this vital Mindanao railway project as well as with other development efforts in the region," Estrada added.

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