Press Release
February 19, 2010

Zubiri: New laws Minda, NCMF turn Mindanao to lynchpin of RP growth
essential partner documents of peace process

Mindanao will be the lynchpin of the Philippines in this century creating economic growth just like the Central Plains became the country's Rice Bowl, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said with the enactment of the Mindanao Economic Development Authority Act (MinDA) or R.A. 9996 and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act (NCMF) of 2009 or R. A. 9997.

"These are the essential partner documents of the peace process as they enter the socio-economic development phase in the talks. Today we end the lip service to peace and development in Mindanao. These laws empower all Filipinos including Muslim Filipinos to do real development work."

Zubiri stressed that the MinDA and NCMF laws "will put an end to the issue that Imperial Manila decides the fate of Mindanao for Manila's interests. Putting Muslim Filipinos at the forefront in the socio-economic development of Mindanao also bodes well for ending poverty-driven conflicts in Mindanao."

He fought for the inclusion of a representative from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), as a member of the board of the MinDA. "Getting the inputs from various tribes, Muslim and non-Muslim, will pave the way for deeper understanding and easier implementation of the development initiatives that the MinDA will come up with in Regions 9, 10, 11, 12, CARAGA and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao."

The MinDA is mandated to recommend programs to the National Economic Development Authority, coordinate and assist prospective investors, maintain a comprehensive database on Mindanao and BIMP EAGA for relevant and well-directed planning and decision-making. It will be the official and permanent Philippine Coordinating Office for the BIMP-EAGA.

The law also provides that appropriations for the Mindanao Economic Development Council shall be transferred to MinDA.

Zubiri said this law is "tailor-fit for Mindanao. Despite the rich natural resources of Mindanao especially its rich biodiversity, many Mindanaoans are poor. In 2006, poverty incidence in Mindanao was as high as 78.9% of families in Tawi-Tawi, 63% in Zamboanga del Norte and 62% in Maguindanao. Even gold-rich Compostela Valley exhibits high poverty incidence at 39.8%." (According to the latest National Statistics Office figures.)

"We have yet to tap the great trading potential of Mindanao whose ports accounted for US$ 2.99 Billion or 6.1 percent of exports and US$ 1.69B or 3% of imports in 2008." (National total exports was US$ 49.08 Billion and total imports was US%56.75 Billion in 2008.)

Zubiri noted a recent Social Weather Station survey on self-rated poverty / food-poverty. Both indicators declined in most areas but rose or were practically the same in Mindanao at 55%. For poverty, a 10-point drop to 50% was noted in the Visayas, while the figure for the Balance of Luzon was six points lower at 43%. It was down two points to 38% in Metro Manila.

"Many in Mindanao are hungry even if some food items are cheap because of lop-sided development thrusts by the national as well as local governments," Zubiri explained. Self-rated food poverty rose by 11 points in Mindanao to 48%. In Balance Luzon, it went down seven points to 36% and by five points in the Visayas to 41%. In Metro Manila it went down by two points to 30%.

"Likewise, belt-tightening by families is reflected by the self-rated poverty threshold -- or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor in general - paint a gloomy picture of Mindanao."

The median poverty threshold for poor households rose to P6,000 in Mindanao, P8,000 in the Balance of Luzon, to P7,000 in the Visayas. In Metro Manila, the amount went down to P12,000. The median food-poverty thresholds for poor households remained at P3,000 in Mindanao. It went up to P7,000 in Metro Manila, to P5,000 in the Balance of Luzon and to P4,000 in the Visayas.

Zubiri is also the major proponent of the creation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to replace the OMA. The NCMF will have broader powers "to further ensure their contribution to national goals and aspirations and to make them active participants in nation-building."

Among the powers and functions of the NCMF are:

- providing advice and assistance on policies and programs affecting Muslim Filipinos; establishment of Muslim Filipino settlements, but not on lands and bodies of water traditionally and actually occupied by Indigenous Peoples and within ancestral domains of the NCIP, and identify lands for homeless and displaced Muslim families;

- serve as channel for seeking government assistance and redress; participate in peace process; enter into contracts with government and private parties; promote domestic trade among Muslim Filipino communities;

- recommend to the Department of Budget and Management proposed expenditures for Muslim Filipino communities;

- promote the Philippine Halal industry; - develop criteria for resource allocation to education, economic and cultural development programs;

- review government policies and programs to uplift Muslim Filipinos;

- acquire, lease or own property or assets, dispose and serve as custodian of lands that the President may reserve for Muslim Filipinos;

- preserve Muslim Filipino historical heritage;

- certify membership in Muslim Filipino communities; provide legal and technical services for Muslim Filipino ancestral lands and settlements;

- assist the National Statistics Office in conducting a population census of Muslim Filipinos in the country;

- ensure success of the Hajj;

- administer and hold in trust awqaf;

- strengthen Madrasah educational system and the Shariáh jurisprudence;

- promote technology transfer to uplift their quality of life, among others.

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