Press Release
January 30, 2010

Villar lauds developments in Mindanao peace process

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar yesterday lauded developments in the Mindanao peace negotiations, saying that security is key to the economic prosperity on the island.

"Genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao represents the common vision of the people in the region, despite religious and ethnic differences. Any positive development in the peace process is always welcome," Villar said.

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) this week swapped draft peace agreements in Kuala Lumpur with an end view of coming up with a final agreement by June this year.

Villar said Mindanao has been plagued by a vicious cycle of conflict and underdevelopment. A peace agreement with the MILF is long overdue, he said.

"Not only that, it is estimated that in the last 15 years, more than a hundred thousand have been killed, most of them women and children, because of the conflict. It has also displaced millions and has led to the loss of billions of pesos in the form of infrastructure and investments," he said. He added that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has consistently had the highest poverty incidence in the country, reaching 71.3 percent in 2003.

"From 1997 to 2009, the five ARMM provinces have been ranked among the 10 worst provinces in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI). We really need to address this as this is not only the problem of Mindanao but the whole nation as well," Villar said.

The senator had earlier said that if elected president, 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.

Villar explained that encouraging more people in Mindanao to become self-employed will transform the region's economy. The government, for its part, must ensure that credit flows in the area, he added.

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