Championing the move to create a Mindanao economic development authority
The need for an agency that would primarily carry out economic and social reforms in Mindanao to ensure the growth and development that the island deserves is vital stressed Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.).
Gordon said that there are boundless opportunities for development in Mindanao, but he pointed out that there has to be an authority that would effect a serious and comprehensive long-term program for socio-economic development in the area that is commensurate to the demands of a modern economy.
"Whenever I go to Mindanao I see the possibilities that are boundless not only in tourism, not only in agriculture, but also in industrial development," he said during the committee hearing on the bill creating the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA).
"We are living in a borderless world. We can communicate by internet, by text, anywhere in the world. We can send our tuna to Japan talking through the internet without even having to go to Japan. But without the necessary infrastructure to bring out our products, we would not be able to compete with the rest of the world," he added.
Gordon, author of Senate Bill 3260 (MEDA Act of 2009), said that Mindanao's rich soil accounts for bountiful harvests of a variety of farm products such as rubber, pineapple, banana and mangosteen, among others.
He added that the region is likewise endowed with rich mineral resources including lead, iron and gold. Cultural diversity and the island's natural beauty make Mindanao one of Asia's favored tourist destinations.
Despite these resources, Gordon noted that decades of armed conflict have taken its toll on Mindanao. In fact, 45% of consistently poor provinces in the country are in Mindanao.
"We have had a long, long festering problem in Mindanao, particularly in the areas of Sulu and Basilan. Mindanao has got to be developed immediately if only to stop the war out there," Gordon said.
"I know that there are certain elements in Mindanao that will never be pacified, but there are more people who want to conquer the lower instincts in man to make sure that Filipinos, whether they be Muslims or Christians, are uplifted," he added.
Gordon said he strongly supports the creation of the MEDA to promote, coordinate, and facilitate the participation of all sectors towards the socio-economic development of Mindanao.
He explained that the MEDA would be the implementing agency for Mindanao-specific inter-regional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects, including Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects.
"Mindanao has been touted as the land of promise. But we have to make sure that the authority is established so that we can see the promise of Mindanao, MindaNOW, not tomorrow, but today," Gordon said.