Thursday, February 16, 2012

Give up arms for farms

We call on the government anew to focus on strengthening agriculture and food production in Mindanao in paving the way towards lasting peace.

One of the main causes of insurgency is high incidence of poverty. the government must map out a plan that would, in time and with the cooperation of all stakeholders, develop Mindanao as the nation's true 'food basket'.

We call on both the GPH and the MILF to seriously explore the possibilities of prosperity should the decades-old conflict finally ends. There is much work that needs to be done, but we first need to end this decades-old war. This war has already cost us over P100 billion pesos in the past four decades. Should the war end, we can allocate the much-needed resources for the basic services , infrastructure and the necessary investments in the countryside and agricultural development.

We firmly believe that the country's far too neglected agricultural sector is the key to the country's economic and social ills.

We have neglected agriculture for decades, which is why our neighbors like Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand are zooming past us while we are limping like a crippled old man. If we had, instead, focused on developing agriculture in our “food basket” of Mindanao think of where we might be today.

History has taught us that a military solution in Mindanao has failed time and time again. We must look at the Ramos administration’s aggressive peace initiatives in the 90s that helped create the window of opportunity that laid down the foundation for economic progress in cities like GenSan (General Santos), Cagayan de Oro, and Davao. In the Mindanao experience, war has brought only misery while aggressive peace initiatives have brought real, tangible progress and development in these areas.

General Santos, for example, has risen from being a war-torn area to the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” with exports in 2010 valued at $359.4 million (approximately P15.5 billion).

The root cause of insurgency is poverty. What our people in the rural areas need are sustainable agricultural programs that can help feed our people and give our farmers and fisherfolk dignity in their professions. Then maybe they will no longer be encouraged to take up arms.

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