Complete solution to conflict and kidnapping in Mindanao
Now is the right time for the government to press forward and apply a comprehensive solution aimed at ending armed conflict and kidnapping incidents in Mindanao,emphasized Senator Richard Gordon (Ind.).
He said that the proposal to grant amnesty to Abu Sayyaf Group members must be complimented with good governance and development projects as well as respect, understanding, and acceptance of Filipino Muslims.
"The door for peace in Sulu is now wide open and government must step in with full, long-term development programs. It's now time to bring in good governance to a province that has suffered not only from conflict but from decades of neglect," said Gordon.
"Amnesty should not be equated with being soft. Our bigger goal is to end decades of conflict and poverty in Muslim Mindanao, amnesty is but part of the solution," Gordon explained.
He said that since his visit to Sulu in August 2007, he has been in constant communication with people from the province. Those whom he had communicated with, he said, expressed their desire to have better schools, good roads, and adequate livelihood.
The senator called for government to step up the building of schools as well as the delivery of health services in conflict affected areas in Mindanao.
"Apart from schools and health services, we should charter ships to aid in transporting agricultural produce from Sulu and other ARMM provinces to major markets in Visayas and even Luzon. We know it will work to bring the peace because we already did this with C-130's for the Fruits of Hope program of the Philippine National Red Cross," said Gordon.
Even during his days as Chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Gordon already supported development initiatives in Mindanao. He convinced Fedex in 1995 to open a link to General Santos City and Davao so that freshly caught tuna could be brought to Japan overnight as well as cut flowers and orchids to Europe. Also as SBMA Chairman in late 1997, he signed a MOA with the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) to farm out excess investors in SBMA to the SPDA and the Zamboanga Economic and Freeport Zone.