Creating goodwill in Morolandia
It’s alarming to read the recent news of Marawi children wanting to be part of the Maute group because these terrorists gave them food and money and the government gave them nothing.
The concerned government agencies should waste no time in attending to this psychosocial problem because the false perception could get permanently imprinted on young impressionable minds and create heroes of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists who mask themselves as community Robin Hoods.
But on a longer and broader basis and even while Marawi City is being rehabilitated, there is need to initiate the planning and development of the whole of Morolandia — i.e., those areas populated mostly by Muslims and which have been neglected by the government for decades.
These could be the geographic areas identified in the proposed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), where the Maguindanao, Maranao and Tausug predominate.
Immediately starting the genuine development of Morolandia could instill an incalculable amount of goodwill among our Muslim compatriots that could nullify the shallow and ephemeral show of benevolence by the IS-inspired extremists.
The recent signing by 41 mayors of Lanao del Sur of a manifesto declaring the Maute group as “enemies of the Maranao people” as well as the clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters should be fortuitous events that the national government should take advantage of, particularly for creating goodwill by sincerely implementing neglected development plans.
The government should fully implement the “2014 Integrated River Basin Management and Development Master Plan for the Agus River Basin” that includes Lake Lanao at its center.
Considering that the Muslim-dominated towns are around the lake and the fact that the ecological health of the lake and the river basin is fast deteriorating and increasingly unable to sustain the residents’ basic needs, the government has to act fast.
For the Maguindanao, there is need for the government to implement forthwith the “Liguasan Marsh Master Development Plan, 1999-2025” covering the Cotabato River Basin.
This plan, in which I participated as a land use planner, was supposed to develop the resource-rich Liguasan Marsh ecosystem and improve the lives of the Maguindanao, whose neglected living conditions were starkly reflected in the rickety Mamasapano footbridge beside which 44 Special Action Force policemen perished in 2015.
Even until now, a master development plan has yet to be formulated for Cotabato City, which is the urban center of the Maguindanao.
Another area of neglect is the realm of the Tausug, Badjao and Samal — i.e., the island ecosystems of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.
Equal, if not greater, attention should be given by the government to creating goodwill among the people of Nur Misuari, particularly considering that he feels having been sidelined in the creation of the BLBAR.
He could throw a monkey wrench into its operation, like he did
in the 2013 Zamboanga City crisis, if he does not get the recognition to which he feels entitled.
The government should lose no time in creating tangible social change in the Muslim archipelago since, aside from Misuari, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist and Robin Hood activities can further jeopardize the speedy creation of the envisioned BLBAR.
The government can derive insights from the projects that were accomplished after the formulation of the “2014 Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction,” in which I also took part as an economic planner.
For example, the displaced Badjao and Samal can be seen now as happily living in sturdy, sanitary and comfortable houses-on-stilts on the coasts of Zamboanga City.
For starters, projects like this and the provision of fishing boats and capital for trading ventures and seaweed farming can create an immeasurable degree of goodwill in this most unstable section of Morolandia.
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Meliton B. Juanico, a retired professor of geography at UP Diliman, is a licensed environmental planner and is active in consultancy work in urban and regional planning.
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