Press Release
January 16, 2010

Villar vows to ignite entrepreneurial spirit in Mindanao

How do you solve a problem like Mindanao?

Launch an all-out war against the rebels? Pursue the peace talks?

For Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar, he would seek lasting peace with the insurgents, promote a strong presence of government in the region, and, above all, unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of Mindanaoans, especially the people of Muslim Mindanao.

"We cannot expect foreign investments to pour in to Mindanao due investors' apprehensions," he said.

He said encouraging more people in Mindanao to become self-employed will transform the region's economy, and the government for its part must ensure that credit flows in the area.

When obstacles in starting up a business are removed, Villar said the region's economic activity in the grassroots would be stimulated.

Villar said national leaders should concentrate on improving the business conditions in Mindanao particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) so that it would be easier to start and grow businesses there.

"One of the reasons hampering the poor from raising their standard of living is lack of access to financial services that would help them start or expand their businesses," he said.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as of June 2008 showed that regular banks do not have much of a presence in the ARMM. The bank density ratio was still poorest in the region at 139,927. In Manila, the ratio is only at 4,213.

Villar's strategies to harness the entrepreneurship spirit in the region include the education of the youth in secondary and tertiary schools on the values and technical intricacies of putting up small business ventures and the expansion of microfinance in areas lacking in rural development programs and projects.

Meanwhile, Villar said that the human development index in the ARMM is 0.5, the lowest in the Philippines, and that poverty levels in the region is the highest.

"Clearly, the government must address this problem... The government must ensure that the human development index is increased significantly. Schools must be built, hospitals must be built, doctors must be provided," he said.

Accompanying these actions, he explained, is strengthening law enforcement in the region.

"We have to strengthen the military, we have to strengthen the AFP to ensure that there is rule of law. And these must be done simultaneously. That is why the next president should be able to multitask. He must be a multitasker because you cannot do these one at a time. You must do these simultaneously," Villar said.

In attaining peace in Mindanao, Villar said major stakeholders - the religious group or the Ulama, civil society, the academe, women, youth, non-governmental and people's organization, peace advocates and the armed groups - must take part in the talks.

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