Peace at last in Mindanao — or so people hope in the advent of greater autonomy granted by the government of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III to rebellious Muslim groups there. The Framework Agreement covering the terms of this autonomy is set to be signed on the 15th of October this year between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) effectively creating an “enlarged Bangsamoro” autonomous region in Mindanao. Under those terms, the local government within the region which will include the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and parts of Lanao del Norte and Cotabato among others, will be allowed implementation of Shariâ€™ah Law and greater control over taxation.
[Photo courtesy The Age.]
President BS Aquino reportedly already sees potential in the region as “a hub of information technology and business process outsourcing companies.” This, Aquino foresaw on the basis of “an increasing number of IT-BPO companies investing in ‘next-wave cities’ such as Sta. Rosa in Laguna, Lipa in Batangas, and Dumaguete.”
â€œWith the recently concluded framework agreement with the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], we are very hopeful that there will come a day, and the not too distant future, when we see a number of IT-BPO companies operating in the Bangsamoro,â€™â€™ Aquino said.
The specifics surrounding the sort of thinking BS Aquino applied when he went from citing all the wondrous investment in IT-BPO enterprises in Laguna and Batangas to making a fearless forecast that these will also take root in Lanao and Cotabato is anybody’s guess. It is unlikely that business was the real motivator for ceding control over these areas to Filipino-Islamic rule. If that were so, then the Visayas region would’ve been the more logical candidate for the shot at political and economic autonomy.
If we are to believe some research done by PinoyExhange.com netizen ‘abanderado’, the Visayas region of the Philippines is a lot riper for full autonomy and even secession going by some back-of-the-envelope economic indicators alone. With a 2009 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD29 billion, the Visayas region is a bigger economy than North Korea, Bahrain, and Brunei. And with a per capita GDP on the same year of USD1,640, the region’s people are on the average richer than those in India, Vietnam, and Pakistan.
An interesting question is then raised under this light:
Does violence pay?
Considering that the Visayas region actually possesses the economic chops and consistent track record of self-determination to be the autonomous state it too has aspired to be, the fact that the Oscar went to a group whose hands are stained by the blood of thousands of Filipino soldiers spilt over several decades defending the internal integrity of the Republic is very telling indeed.
The Bangsamoro is only one of several other hypothetical states within the Philippines that each have legitimate, albeit varying, claims to autonomy. In his book A Country of Our Own, award-winning author and intellectual David Martinez tables a provocative proposal that sees the possible breakup of the Philippine Republic into five autonomous regions…
The country in [Martinez’s] eyes comprises five regions (“nations”): Cordillera, Luzon, The Visayas, Mindanao, and Bangsamoro. He proposes holding legally binding referenda in each of these places to determine whether those who live there wish to remain inside the Philippines or form their own independent country.
The Philippines, after all, is no more than an artificial state originally created by the Spanish crown mainly for the purpose of consolidating and streamlining colonial administration of its assets in the region. The former countries of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and now internally-unstable Rwanda, come to mind when one thinks of what the Philippines is all about — an agglomeration of fiefdoms that remain stuck together for the purpose of keeping alive nostalgic relics of 19th Century “nationalist” thinking and not for any real practical or measurable ends befitting a modern 21st Century society.
If autonomy can be considered — and granted — to Bangsamoro, then so too should the same be evaluated and considered for the other four regions Martinez posits. Perhaps the time has come for us to re-think the continued existence of a nation named after an Inquisitous Spanish king.
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