Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Plan for Mindanao modernization

Culled from Sunstar

In effect, Mindanao 2020 is a strategic plan for modernizing Mindanao. It upgrades earlier medium-term and long-range plans for achieving enduring peace and sustainable development in Southern Philippines, Palawan included. The principal partners/cooperators for its operationalization consists of, but not limited to, the:

(a) Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors, and Municipal Mayors Leagues of Mindanao (CONFED) headed by South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes;

(b) Mindanao Bloc, the group of lawmakers from Mindanao led by House Speaker Prospero Nograles;

(c) Mindanao Business Council, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and various business support organizations, chaired by Vic Lao;

(d) Kusog Mindanao, a group of civil society organizations headed by Rey Teves;

(e) Mindanao Studies Consortium Foundation, Incorporated, an association of academic institutions chaired by Fr. Bert Alejo;

(f) Bishop-Ulama Forum headed by Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Ulama League of the Philippines led by Aleem Mahmod Adilao, and United Church of Christ in the Philippines chaired by Dr. Mariano Apilado; and,

(g) Mindanao Indigenous Peoples headed by Datu Lipatuan Joel Unad, and PANAGTAGPO Mindanao under Datu Victorio Siway.

For the day-to-day implementation of Mindanao 2020, MEDCo is assisted by:

(a) Team of Experts – former Cabinet members working in partnership with Mindanao-based experts;

(b) Eminent Persons Group – respected leaders with extensive knowledge of Mindanao issues to provide general directions and insights; and,

(c) Team Mindanao – representatives/lead convenors of stakeholders actively involved in peace and development advocacy.

The refining process

True to its mandate, MEDCo is undertaking a scientific process to transform the existing Mindanao 2000 framework into a more refined roadmap – which is Mindanao 2020. These step-by-step activities are:

Phase I: Assessment of Mindanao 2000;

Phase II: Review of related studies and documents;

Phase III: Planning consultations;

Phase IV: Formulation of Mindanao 2020;

Phase V: Validation and finalization;

Phase VI: Launching of Mindanao 2020;

Phase VII: Advocacy activities; and

Phase VIII: Monitoring, evaluation, review and updating.

"Super region" speeds up 27 projects

The implementation of 27 major infrastructure projects under PGMA’s Mindanao "Super Region" concept is making progress. Roads, airports, seaports, hospitals, irrigation facilities, power and electrification projects are undergoing construction, while implementing agencies are meeting regularly to resolve bottlenecks.

Land transport along Western, Central, and Northeastern Mindanao routes is expected to improve as seven major road projects report positive progress. These include the Sibuco-Sirawai-Siocon-Baliguian-Gutalac Road (connecting Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur) and Surigao Sur-Davao Oriental Coastal Road.

The private financial and business sectors are also encouraged to invest in "ready-to-go" projects like the Panguil Bay Bridge and Kabulnan Irrigation Project-Phase II.

Still missing, however, is a critical link in an inter-modal transport system that is still on the planning boards – the Mindanao Railway System (MRS). To fulfill the potential of MRS as a vital catalyst to increase productivity by enhancing the delivery of people, goods and services, an enabling authority must be provided to attract private sector investments in the railways industry. Speaker Nograles has announced the harmonization and prioritization of pending MRS bills, principally: H.B. 1855, "An Act Creating the Mindanao Railways Corporation;" and H.B. 2656, "An Act Creating the Mindanao Railways Authority."

The plan for an MRS can be traced back to 1994 when FVR directed the DoTC, DPWH, NEDA and LGUs to collaborate with lawmakers on the proposed Mindanao Railways that should first connect Cagayan de Oro and Iligan (the C-I Corridor). Among the earliest sponsors of an MRS law was Senator Santanina Rasul in the 9th Congress.

BIMP-EAGA and CEAGPOL: Benefiting beyond borders

Among the international components of Mindanao 2020 are the well-known BIMP-EAGA launched in 1994 and – as mentioned in last Sunday’s Part I of this series and in our 21 September column – the emerging Central East Asia Growth Polygon (CEAGPOL).

In a "convergence" meeting in Davao City last March, the EAGA tourism and airline groups agreed to develop "tour brands" utilizing existing BIMP-EAGA aviation packages including a 4-day tour cluster for Davao-Zamboanga-Sandakan-Kota Kinabalu destinations. A similar enticement is the Davao-Singapore-Kuching route utilizing Cebu Pacific’s Davao-Singapore flight started last May.

Port-to-port bilateral talks among the four BIMP-EAGA member-countries are on-going to set up One Stop Action Centers (OSACs) wherein government and private agencies that process, approve, and record export documents are housed under one roof. OSAC operations will be initially pilot-tested in the areas of Davao, Zamboanga, and Puerto Princesa; Sandakan and Kudat in Malaysia; and Manado in Indonesia. OSACs support the efforts to harmonize and streamline Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) rules, regulations and procedures, with the goal of reducing costs of doing business and, therefore, curtailing corruption.

The Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA)

The recent flurry of planning and integrating activities by executives, experts and lawmakers on two broad fronts – peacemaking and socio-economic development – augurs well for the people of Mindanao. Since its creation in 1992 until recently, all these multifarious activities were being handled by MalacaƱang thru MEDCo. By virtue of a new Executive Order, however, MEDCo has just been detached from the Office of the President and put under the NEDA; thus, in a very significant way, diluting MEDCo’s direct access to the President, and the power of PGMA’s authority over matters of crucial importance to Mindanao.

In this latest situation, it appears that there is again a tug-of-war over turf, logistics and influence over Mindanao solutions – which is an undesirable but recurring phenomenon in Philippine governance.

Let us recall that if there was measurable and palpable success in Mindanao programs for peace and development during the Ramos Administration, it was mainly because just one official – and only one – Presidential Assistant for Mindanao (PAMIN) Paul Dominguez was clothed with sufficient authority to make on-the-spot decisions over Mindanao matters already covered by national or Presidential policy. This efficient set-up quickly disintegrated during the succeeding Estrada administration with the appointment of 3 PAREs (Presidential Assistants for Regions) in Mindanao – which resulted in inevitable rivalry for Presidential attention and "goodies" by his 3 "com-pares."

The solution: Legislate meda

Considering Mindanao’s recent history of "sulong-atras" (forward-backward) governance, it is essential to maintain the momentum of peace and development by establishing a lasting institutional mechanism to insure a continuous coordinative and integrative process in formulating and implementating Mindanao-wide, inter-regional development plans, programs and projects for maximum impact and benefit.

The creation by law of MEDA will enhance coherence, consistency and optimization of Mindanao development. At present, with MEDCo being merely an agency created by Presidential Order, threats of its discontinuity and abolition are always a probability. Along with such uncertainties are apprehensions of unholistic integration, monitoring and evaluation.

Thus, MEDCo Chair Leyretana recommended last November 7, to PGMA for certification – as among MalacaƱang’s priority bills – H.B. 5255, "An Act Creating the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA), Defining Its Powers and Functions, and for Other Purposes, and Providing Funds Therefor." In support of Mindanao’s leaders, I strongly endorse this bill’s enactment by the 14th Congress. And, PGMA’s imprimatur thereon will effectively advance Mindanao’s peace process and grassroots progress.

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