By JOHN TRIA
As this goes to press, 27 individuals were reportedly killed and more than a hundred wounded in a two stage bombing of the Jolo Cathedral. While I leave the details to the news reports, this is my own take:
Whoever chose to strike after the high number of voters chose to ratify the Bangsamoro Law in last week’s plebiscite magnifies the fact that they who want to stop the BOL no longer carry majority sentiment in a desperate move to foment conflict with Christians.
The BOL vote lost by a small margin in Sulu, yet won over all, in practically all areas where the plebiscite was held. It received unprecedented support among all major armed groups.
It is clear that those seeking to perpetuate conflict are a small bandit-led minority those who want the violence to continue, and probably profit from it.
These perpetrators want to dampen peace efforts and the almost 50-year quest for long lasting peace and stability. They desire that everyone be bullied into prejudice and violence we have long worked to eradicate.
Thus, whoever expresses joy at the bombing needs to have their head checked. Whoever does not want to condemn such a grisly and cowardly deed while doing the same to promote a selfish and sick slavery to prejudice.
That said, the two bombs cannot break our resolve to build the economy and lay the foundations for a more abundant, inclusive society.
Recent data has shown that our economic growth rate of 6.2% for 2018 has made our economic growth average 6.5% since 2016 better than many of our Asian oeers. Data you can verify has also shown lower unemployment and underemployment for 2018, and recent SWS Surveys have shown that hunger has dropped.
Foreign direct investment has reached highs we have never seen before, hitting the 8.5-billion-dollar mark in October, 2018, and despite the Boracay closure this year, 7.1 million foreign tourists have arrived — an all-time high for a sector that contributes almost a fifth of our GDP.
The data slaps the face of naysayers who believe that this country will never grow, who warned of an economic deflation similar to venezuela, it seems that we have shown our capability to keep growing at a pace that rivals our neighbors and beats expectations.
A more inclusive growth? Looks like it, yet more needs to be done by way of and connectivity to bring the growth to more areas, especially in the long-neglected south. Before this, 60% of our growth was concentrated in the areas around Metro Manila. Any growth cannot be sustained if the south is left behind.
Yet spend on infrastructure we must to sustain it. Gone are the days of underspending on vital infrastructure. We are now at the necessary level of more than 5% of GDP in our infrastructure spending, a far cry from the subpar 2.5% of the previous administration that got many multilaterals worried.
Manufacturing and agriculture, though slower that 2017’s growth (3.2% snd .8% respectively, still show signs of expansion compared to the period before 2016 where agricultre actually contracted.
But the realities underneath the data matter most. The BOL’s enactment is expected to bring a new era of peace that will boost the already strong confidence to unleash Mindanao’s economic potential and encourage a new wave of investment.
This includes a new steel plant in Misamis Oriental, agricultural plantations in former rebel strongholds and a revitalized barter trade between the island and the traditional trading partners in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Likewise, the skylines of Mindanao’s major cities are rising, along with traffic, prompting calls to fasttrack mass transport systems to ferry residents within the cities.
A new sports complex years in the making has been launched with a FIFA approved 35,000-seat stadium, plus a 25,000 seat gym and aquatic center inside the UP Mindanao campus.
Despite martial law, Davao in particular received 2.4 million foreign and local visitors last year and welcomed two new direct international flights.
Seeing these numbers and signs, we cannot help but feel inspired and strong to face the terrorists that want nothing but to again steal the promise of Mindanao. They will fail.
We will grow.
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