THE election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the next president of the Philippines raises hopes that Mindanao will be getting much greater attention than it has received in the past from the national government.
Mindanao has actually been getting an increased share in the national budget since 2011. For 2016, its share of the P3-trillion national budget is P380.9 billion, compared to P594 billion for Luzon and P285.4 billion for the Visayas. These funds for regional development are on top of the funds for national programs such as defense and foreign affairs.
Over the years, Mindanao’s funds have gone mostly to infrastructures, agriculture, livelihood programs, and social services. The region’s contributions to the national economy have been largely in agriculture. It is the country’s major producer of pineapple, banana, cassava, coffee, and rubber, along with a sizeable share of the national production of coconut and corn. It is known to have substantial natural resources, notably in mining and forestry.
But it seems the full benefits of economic development and progress have escaped the people of Mindanao and a number of reasons have been raised. One is the lack of industry, largely due to insufficient power supply, to provide employment and produce goods for local consumption as well as for export. But the biggest problem is said to be that of internal security, peace and order.
The Aquino administration succeeded in winning the support of the biggest armed group in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF), although full agreement is pending until approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Earlier administrations reached agreements with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Then there is the New People’s Army which used to be very active in Central Luzon but has since moved mostly to some areas of Mindanao.
President-elect Duterte, a long-time mayor of Davao City, should know what to do about these problems and where to begin. With him controlling the levers of power and the resources of the national government, he should be able to direct the operations of so many security and development agencies to focus on specific problems on ground he is familiar with.
During the election campaign, he pushed for many ideas and programs, including federalism to enable various regions of the country to speed up their development. Many of these programs require revision of the Constitution and, therefore, time. There are, however, programs that can be done immediately, such as restoration of peace and order and suppression of crime, particularly in relation to drugs.
The entire country awaits decisive action on these problems – it is for this that the voters chose him above the other candidates. But even as he attends to the many problems found around the country, we will understand – and we will welcome – the attention he will focus on his beloved region of Mindanao, whose time has truly come.