Business groups support ‘acceptable, meaningful’ BBL

Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine business community and foreign chambers, led by the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), expressed their support yesterday for the passage of an “acceptable and meaningful Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).”

In a signed joint statement, the group also called on the House and Senate to act with urgency in enacting the proposed BBL into law.

MBC chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr. noted that economic indicators showed that Bangsamoro is at the bottom in terms of education, health and facilities. It also has a high poverty level, which reached over 30 percent.

“Peace has to be the foundation of development. Peace in the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao will open the whole area to much more significant economic activities and therefore, economic development,” he said.

In the statement, the business community asked for a version consistent with the Constitution; adheres to the commitments contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and truly embodies the dreams and aspirations of Muslim Filipinos.

The business leaders also said they stand firm that, at the minimum, the BBL “must not diminish what was already given to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

“While allowing the expansion of the Bangsamoro region after the BBL’s enactment remains a contentious issue, at the very least, the original core territory of the Bangsamoro should be retained, consistent with the principle of not reducing what is already present in the ARMM,” the business groups said.

The business groups also said that the original composition of the Bangsamoro Parliament of reserving a greater number of seats to political party representatives must be preserved “to allow the blossoming of genuine political parties and the exercise of true democracy.”

Given that the poorest and least developed provinces are found in the Bangsamoro, the business groups want full fiscal autonomy for it.

“Full fiscal autonomy is essential. Thus, guided by the aim to guarantee the Bangsamoro economy’s stability and sustainability through the effective and responsible utilization of its resources, the Bangsamoro must have power over land, water and strategic minerals within its jurisdiction,” the statement reads.

The business groups also said that, as a complement to other measures that will assure peace and security in the region, the Shari’ah courts must be further strengthened.

“We believe that there is no other viable path to winning the peace in Mindanao’s conflicted areas but the completion of the peace process, and it cannot and will not move forward if the BBL remains stalled in Congress,” the business groups said.

It said only the Aquino administration has managed to progress in the peace process.

“Never before has the peace process progressed to a stage where we are at the brink of ending decades of armed conflict, which has displaced and killed thousands of persons, mostly civilians. We fully support the Aquino administration’s commitment to lasting peace and development in Mindanao. It will be a shame if we waste all our efforts, now that we have come so far,” the business groups said.

Del Rosario said the groups want to allow Muslim Filipinos to exercise their right to genuine autonomy and to catch up with the socio-economic developments elsewhere in the Philippines.

“We need investors to go in the area, we need employment opportunities and good governance and that cannot happen in the absence of peace. (Without peace), it would be difficult for us to bring investors,” Del Rosario emphasized.

 Mindanao Business Council chairman Vicente Lao appealed to political leaders to give peace a chance, saying that the conflict can only be addressed through economic intervention.

“These are realities on the ground, they are really in dire need of support from the central government. Give these people a chance to chart their own destiny and maybe one day, they will live up to our expectations,” he added. – With Louise Maureen Simeon

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