By Carolyn O. Arguillas
Second of three parts
Dureza and Murad sat across the negotiating table as chairs of the government and MILF peace panels from 2001 to 2003, when the peace talks resumed under the Arroyo administration, after the “all out war” waged by the Estrada administration in 2000. Murad was then Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
The BIAF’s current Chief of Staff, Sammy Al Mansoor, and other members of the MILF Central Committee and agencies were also present during the “Conversation.”
“As we prepare for the transition into the Bangsamoro Government, it is best to keep in mind that the Bangsamoro still lags behind the rest of the country in many human development indices,” Murad said, citing the poverty incidence that remains highest in the region “which is more than triple than that of the national average” and the “poor bottom of literacy rate” at 86.1% compared to other regions like neighboring Region 12, also referred to as Soccsksargen, “where 90% is their lowest (and the) national average is at 96.5%.”
He cited more statistical data from the Armm, the core territory of the proposed Bangsamoro, which will be abolished upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro: only 32 percent of its population have access to safe water, its inflation rate of 8.1% for August this year surpasses the national figure of 6.4% “making our population spend 60 percent of their earnings much on food and cut-off on other urgent needs such as health and education.”
“Our people still struggle to access clean water and electricity,” Murad said, noting that even as Lake Lanao is the source of hydroelectric power for around 68% of Mindanao’s electricity requirements, “our electricity supply is unreliable and expensive compared to major Mindanao cities and selected Asian countries.”
“Our life expectancy rate is at 59 for male and 61 for female. The second leading cause of death for male adult is gunshot wounds leaving behind them orphans and widows,” he said.
“Appalling and it is extremely painful to look at these numbers,” Murad said, adding it is “almost paradoxical that we wallow in poverty amidst an abundance in natural resources.” (To be continued)