Duterte launches anti-poverty projects in Muslim south

Philippine president vows that Muslim Moro, other indigenous people in Mindanao will have equal share of national wealth

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines , Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a number of projects aimed at tackling poverty and underdevelopment in the country’s Muslim south.

“I read in the statistics data that the Moro region is the poorest,” he said Saturday while unveiling the programs for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other areas of Mindanao island in Cotabato City.

“I tell you, I will pour budget for Moro region. I want the incidence of hunger stopped… We will find ways, even just for the food of children,” he underlined.

Numerous armed Muslim groups and a communist insurgency — some involved in an ongoing peace process with Duterte’s administration — operate in Mindanao, a region rich in resources, but among the country’s most underdeveloped due to decades-old conflicts that have left around 150,000 people dead.

Duterte, the country’s first president hailing from Mindanao, vowed Saturday that the southern region would receive an equal share of the national wealth under his promise of equal treatment for all Filipinos.

“We will treat you equally. I will see to it that the Moros, Christians or the Igorots will be treated alike,” he said.

Describing Mindanao as rich in natural resources, he stressed the need for the region to “develop to its fullest extent”.

“Mindanao holds a promise in agriculture,” he said, pledging that his administration would provide agricultural equipment to local farmers.

The president also called on Congress once again to come up with a legislative framework for a federal form of government, which he insisted would make peace and development in predominantly Moro areas more easily attainable.

“I will improve the Moro homeland in Mindanao during my term,” he said, stressing the importance of local communities supporting his bid for a peaceful end to the southern conflict.

Duterte again expressed his high regard for the welfare of the Moro people owing to his grandmother descending from the ethnic Maranaw and several of his grandchildren being part Maranao and Tausug — among the major Moro tribes on the island.

Since winning the May 9 election, Duterte has vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro and other indigenous peoples, proposing to amend the country’s constitution to grant regions more federal autonomy.

His government has been holding peace talks with negotiators from the country’s communist insurgency as well as one-time largest Moro rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

This Article was originally published in the Anadolu Agency

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