AS the Marawi Crisis and martial law in Mindanao entered Day 110 on Saturday, President Duterte gave delegates to the 26th Mindanao Business Conference mixed signals about Mindanao’s future under his administration.
Duterte painted a grim scenario of its future: “Mindanao seems to be in trouble… What’s happening in Marawi seems to stretch the trouble farther than we expect… There will be no peace in Mindanao for the longest time… We are headed for a long haul of trouble… The next flash point is still Mindanao.”
As is typical of a Duterte extemporaneous speech, he rambled on, shifting from one topic to the other.
But while reading his speech at the latter part of his 37-minute talk, Duterte said he was confident that with the business sector’s cooperation and the people’s support, “we will create a more prosperous and progressive Mindanao.”
He said it has often been asked what ails Mindanao, and why it lags behind.
“Mainly because Mindanao seems to be in trouble,” he said. “I would admit that I have to correct the historical injustice asked by the Moro people but then again, what’s happening in Marawi seems to stretch the trouble farther than we expect.” He did not elaborate.
“Mindanao cannot progress,” Duterte stressed, citing the problem of law and order, the New People’s Army which is allegedly into extortion, and the “warlords” in government.
He also pointed to three government agencies issuing land titles and how corruption in government has contributed to this disorder.
Duterte said he was not trying to agitate or scare anyone but “the historical system of unitary type of government — which is actually fundamentally for control (of) the population because we were colonized — would not work at this time anymore.”
He reiterated that the only way historical injustice in Mindanao can be corrected is “for everybody to reconsider that position. And the elite of this country cannot hang on to this unitary type of power grab every time.”
Duterte did not explain how a shift to a federal form of government could address terrorism or violent extremism but warned that “if we cannot solve the problem of Mindanao vis-a-vis the different contending parties for sharing, maybe an equitable distribution of all things, we are headed for a long haul of trouble.”
“I will guarantee you that being from Mindanao, with a mother from — a Mindanawon, I will tell you now straight that there will be no peace in Mindanao for the longest time,” he said.
Duterte has been pushing for a shift from the highly centralized presidential, unitary system, to a federal system where power is shared by the central government and the federal states.
Also on Saturday, Duterte warned the situation in Cotabato would “explode” but did not say which Cotabato he was referring to, and did not also provide details into why it would “explode.”
There are three Cotabato’s: Cotabato City, North, and Cotabato South Cotabato.
“‘That Cotabato, it will explode… one lot, three titles. And somebody has to explain that. Otherwise, pupu… tignan mo, ano ang sunod na… the next flash point is still in Mindanao,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s pronouncement caused distress among residents in the Cotabatos.
On Sept. 1, Duterte said at the Eastern Mindanao Command’s 11th anniversary celebration that he was already considering lifting martial law earlier “but the way it looks, parang may spillover na sa ARMM eh. Sa Buldon,” refering to Buldon in Maguindanao.
Duterte’s pronouncement surprised local officials and the military who said no such “spillover” was monitored.
Shifting from extemporaneous delivery to reading his prepared speech, Duterte noted that with the right infrastructure and sound business environment, Mindanao’s great potential can be realized, hence government is “aggressively pursuing infrastructure projects in Mindanao” to facilitate transfer of goods and services and boost mobility and connectivity.
He cited the Mindanao Railway system, the Panguil Bay Bridge and the Laguindingan Airport development projects which are in various stages of implementation. He said government is actively providing assistance in the production of high-value crops, that the Color-Coded Agri-Fishery Map is now available to farmers to help them identify the most suitable crops to plant their areas.
But Duterte admitted that efforts to promote business, trade and investment in Mindanao “will be in vain if we cannot ensure stability and order, as well as secure just and lasting peace in the island.”
He said government is intensifying the fight against illegal drugs, crime and corruption to create a more enabling and nurturing business environment in Mindanao.
Duterte assured the business sector that government remains “firmly committed to wiping out local terrorists and other threat groups that continue to hinder our peace and development efforts, especially the Isis-inspired ones who have attempted to take over the City of Marawi.”
“Government will do everything to make sure that Marawi City recovers and that it will rise again as a thriving and flourishing city,” he said. (carolyn o. arguillas of mindanews)