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Bizmen on Mindanao's dev't: We must do our part

MANILA, Philippines – The Makati Business Club (MBC) on Thursday, March 27 called on their fellow businessmen to participate in the development of Mindanao's economy following the signing of the historic peace pact between the government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group.

"We believe that the success of the peace deal hinges largely on genuine economic development, and the improvement in the quality of the lives of the people, both in the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao as a whole," the group said in a statement. "With the country’s steadily improving investment climate, the peace deal presents a golden opportunity… the business community must do its part."

After 4 decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed Thursday a peace agreement with President Benigno Aquino III's government, promising to give up their arms for autonomy. (READ: 'This is the crowning glory of our struggle)

The pact makes the MILF and the government partners in a plan to create the autonomous Bangsamoro region, with locally elected leaders by mid-2016.

The Bangsamoro region, eyed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would cover about 10% of territory in the Philippines.

The region would have its own police force, a regional parliament and power to levy taxes, while revenues from the region's vast deposits of natural resources would be split with the national government.

Crucial in its creation is the passage of a "basic law," ideally by the end of this year to allow for other steps such as a local plebiscite. 

MBC therefore urged Congress "to continue to ardently pursue this path to peace."

"We repeat our shared aspiration that the basic law, which the government has committed to certify as urgent legislation, will truly embody the aspirations of the Bangsamoro and usher the region towards greater economic, social, and cultural activity."

MBC said it hopes for an effective implementation of the peace agreement to "unleash Mindanao's vast potentials" in agriculture, agribusiness investments, tourism and natural resource development, among others.

It added if this is achieved, Mindanao would be an essential driver of Philippine economic growth.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, in a statement, said the peace pact would ensure not only lasting peace but also socioeconomic progress in Mindanao and the rest of the country. "With the assurance of peace and security in the country, we can expect increased confidence from foreign investors keen on doing business in the Philippines."

Abad said Bangsamoro communities would finally gain wider access to key social and economic services, including education, health care, and infrastructure.

"We're also set on creating a national budget that is even more responsive to the needs of communities there. This way, we can ensure that the progress we're making will benefit the Bangsamoro in a sure and sustainable way," he said. – Rappler.com, with a report from Agence France-Presse