Mindanao is still a land of unfulfilled promises
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 25, 2019 - 12:00am

Since my primary school days, I have always been taught that Mindanao is our country's Land of Promise. My religion teacher likened it to Israel, the promised land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. My Political Science professor told me that, yes, it is a land of promise because the Christians got all the land and the Muslims got all the promises. I have been going to and from Davao for HR and Labor Law seminars and consultations, to Gensan where I have some clients in the tuna industry, to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan where I lecture in some private firms, and to Zamboanga where the DOLE regional office invites me a number of times to speak in regional symposia and Mindanao-wide fora. I see all around me evidence of slow and stagnated development palpably hampered by parochial politics and reported corruption and ineptitude.

I just arrived yesterday from the Caraga region, particularly in Surigao City, where I attended a board of trustees meeting in a Catholic university which appointed me to the board. I had to take a flight from Manila to Butuan and then travel by land from Butuan to Surigao then back after 24 hours, (following a reverse of the same route, braving ambush areas in territory known for threats of terror or rebel attacks) to Butuan airport then flew back to Manila but via Mactan, for lack of available direct flight. There used to be a daily flight from Manila direct to Surigao but the airport was destroyed by a typhoon almost two years ago. The politicians and the bureaucracy took almost 20 months until now to repair the damage.

I have always been going to and coming from that same place in the last five years I have been a member of that board. And, based on my observations, the area has deteriorated, instead of developed. The politicians, the family dynasties, and the businesses prospered, but the people remain poor and many are jobless. A good number are reportedly processing applications for jobs abroad and somewhere in Luzon or in Central Visayas. The mining industry is booming in the region, the mining moguls are generating millions of dollars in profits, but the environment has been ravished. The laborers remain poor and with no hope of alleviation. What is wrong with Mindanao?

There is nothing wrong with Mindanao. It is a land of milk and honey, with plenty of potential. The land is very fertile and the weather is very favorable. The people are hard-working. Mindanao is the food basket but the Mindanaoans have no sufficient food. The foreigners, Luzon and Visayas investors, and enterprising capitalists are getting all the products and leaving a pittance of an income to the lumads and the Muslims who originally owned Mindanao. The rebellion in Mindanao is just a reaction to the exploitation of the land, the marginalization of the natives and the proliferation of alien interests and non-Mindanaoans who now control the pinapple and banana plantations, yielding billions in profits and contractualizing the workers.

For the last three years, the president of the whole nation is from Mindanao. But I have yet to see palpable evidence that Mindanao is moving forward at the rate necessary and at the scope which is becoming imperative each day, nay, each minute of each day. Or else, Mindanao shall explode like a big bomb. And we may all suffer from it.

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