Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) walking past a checkpoint sign inside their camp in the township of Sultan Kudarat, southern Philippines, yesterday. Reuters pic
KOTA KINABALU 10/10/2012: PEOPLE in southern Philippines may no longer need to risk the high seas and flee their homeland once the Bangsamoro plan is put in place.
Resource-rich Mindanao remains untapped and with a peace accord in sight, development will be the main focus.
A peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is in the offing to chart a blueprint for the establishment of a new semi-autonomous Muslim area called Bangsamoro, which will lead the southerners out of their economic and political miseries.
MILF second-in-command Ghadzali Jaafar said many people had fled because of the fighting for the past four decades, which had deprived them of a better livelihood.
"Most of them are economic migrants who seek better lives and it's understandable with the troubles they had to face here in the past," said Ghadzali, who is also MILF political affairs chief, at Camp Darapan in Cotabato.
"Here, we have fertile land planted with coffee, coconuts, corn and rice. Like Malaysia, we will soon open up lands for oil palm plantation.
"We also have minerals such as gold, copper, and coal, as well as three major oil deposits that have not been explored. Experts say that our oil deposits may even be bigger than those in Brunei."
With the economic potential and political stability in the region, Ghadzali said they would need the manpower to strive for prosperity.
"We will call upon our brothers who are abroad, such as those in Sabah, to return home to help us build Bangsamoro."
The peace accord will ensure that the Bangsamoro region is administered with help of the international community, including the International Monitoring Committee on Ceasefire, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Ghadzali said the administration plans for the new Bangsamoro region would be different.
"We will have the power to earn, collect revenue and start afresh with a new establishment."
By ROY GOH