The Philippine government said Thursday that it will give greater attention to the economic development of the new Bangsamoro political entity which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In his speech before the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Philippine President Benigno Aquino III noted that the Bangsamoro people have been mired in poverty and have suffered injustice for many years.
"The huge imbalance between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the country served to breed resentment, and consequently insurgency. When the Bangsamoro people felt that they had no redress within the system, they then tried to address their grievances from outside of the system," said Aquino.
"We must therefore give them a significant boost up, so that they can catch up. If we are to truly address the root causes of conflict, we must close the gap between the region and the rest of Filipino society," he added.
Government data showed that poverty incidence in the ARMM was at 38.1 percent in 2009, which was higher than the poverty incidence level in other areas in the Philippines.
"Decades of fighting have robbed a generation of healthcare, education, of income. With peace must come not just prosperity but opportunity. Only then will Bangsamoro's future be assured," said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in his speech before the forging of the CAB in Malacanang, the presidential palace.
Najib was invited by Aquino to witness the signing of the peace pact given the significant role played by Malaysia in facilitating the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF.
With the CAB in place, the Philippine government said Bangsamoro communities are already assured of greater access to economic services including public education, health care, and infrastructure development.
For one, state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. said it will release an initial 11,000 health cards to MILF members which will allow them to access healthcare services.
The government is targeting to enroll a total of 32,000 MILF families in the state's health insurance program. Some 26 million pesos (577,546 U.S. dollars) have been allocated for this.
The Philippine government said the forging of the CAB will " catalyze the transformation" of the Bangsamoro as a hub for tourism, investment and commercial activities.
Improving the peace and order situation in southern Philippines, the government said, not only bodes well for the region but to the whole country as well.