By FRED M. LOBO
President Duterte has appealed to the people to work together for peace, especially in Mindanao.
The President issued the call at the second decommissioning ceremony for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and weapons in Sultan Kudarat, along with reports that travel tourism has brought in US$82 billion to the Philippine economy in 2018.
Peace for stability, peace for huge tourism benefits, the government suggests.
“I invite all concerned stakeholders to continue working with the government so that our gains for many years of peace-building efforts will never go to waste,”Duterte said at the decommissioning ceremony of the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Peace for Mindanao, peace for the entire country, the President appealed.
“Let me also take this opportunity to assure the officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the MILF, and the people of Mindanao that this administration will always listen to your grievances. Let us set aside our differences and avoid further armed conflict,” he said.
Time to let go of hatred and armed conflict, Duterte stressed.
The President said the government will try to interfere as least as possible; assuring them that it would be up to them how they use their resources.
“You will experience the least intervention from the national government because I don’t want to get in your way. But if you need money, anything, just say it,” Duterte added.
The President cited the decommissioning as another important milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process and thanked those responsible for making it to happen.
Time for more inclusive, accountable, and transparent government in the South, he said.
“Let me take this opportunity to personally acknowledge the efforts of everyone who made this event possible, especially the negotiating panels of both sides of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Independent Decommissioning Body, and all those who worked tirelessly to end the armed hostilities between the government and MILF,” Duterte said.
“I take pride in the fact that we have made significant progress in the implementation of the agreements arising from the Comprehensive Agreement on [the] Bangsamoro, including the very important Annex on Normalization that covers the decommissioning process,” he added.
“This is indeed a huge step towards our goal of achieving lasting peace for Mindanao,” he said.
MILF combatants will be supported by the government as they return to the fold of the law, he assured.
“As we proceed with the decommissioning process, let me assure our MILF combatants that the government will assist you as you reintegrate into society and enjoy fruitful and productive civilian lives. I look forward to having you as the government’s partners as we take further strides in securing lasting peace and order in Mindanao,” Duterte said,
“As our [decommissioned] combatants open a new [chapter] in your lives, I hope that they will be inspired to take this opportunity to improve their lives and create a better future for your families and loved ones as well,” he added.
The President said a total of 1,060 MILF fighters and 920 high-powered firearms including 81mm mortars, caliber 50 machineguns, and RPG 7 rocket launchers were officially decommissioned .
The administration will support their transition to “civilian but productive” lives, he assured.
Malacanang noted that the decommissioning came seven months after RA 11054, the basic law governing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was ratified in a plebiscite, in July, 2018.
BARMM replaces the 29-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMMM), with expanded land and water jurisdiction and greater fiscal autonomy.
BARMM Chief Minister and MILF Chairman Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim turned over to the President a short firearm in box, saying the act demonstrated the MILF’s sincere observance of the 2014 peace agreement and MILF’s vow to decommission 12,000 to 40,000 combatants.
Time for peace and a new a new life in the Southern Philippines.
Meanwhile, the government welcomed reports that travel and tourism contributed US$82 billion to Philippine economy and was the country’s largest sector in 2018.
A 24.7-percent share in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the report said.
“Travel l and tourism’s contribution to employment during 2018 was 26.4 percent, ahead of both Retail and Construction, at 20.4 percent and 15.7 percent respectively, and only just behind Agriculture (31.1 percent),” the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said in a recent report.
A“benchmark” research, a welcome report.
“The report, sponsored by American Express, reveals that in the Philippines, of the sectors studied, Travel & Tourism is the largest sector in terms of GDP contribution, making up almost a quarter of country’s total GDP, ahead of Financial services (15.4 percent), Agriculture (14.8 percent), and Retail (14.8 percent),” it added.
“The industry has experienced incredible growth over the last nine years and WTTC commends the Philippines government for recognizing the importance of Travel & Tourism as a driver of economic growth,” Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of WTTC, said.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the steady growth of Philippine tourist arrivals is evident with the 4,852,107 foreigners who visited the country from January to July, 2019, a 12.36 percent growth from the same period last year.
“We remain inspired, knowing that private sector, other government agencies, and civil society continue to support our sustainable tourism programs and the more fun brand campaign,” she said .
The tourism head called for greater public support to tourism efforts, saying, “after all, tourism is everybody’s business.”