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Mindanao is receiving the ‘dividends of peace,’ according to Galvez.

MANILA, Philippines — According to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity, Mindanao is reaping “dividends of peace,” particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is now the country’s second-fastest-growing region in terms of economic activity.

Galvez said in a statement that BARMM’s economy rose by 7.5 percent in 2021, “amazing” performance in the face of the epidemic and proof of the region’s enormous economic potential.

“This is a sign of not only the region’s great economic potential but also of steady peace and order conditions,” Galvez said. “The region has evolved into a showcase for peace and development.” It has gone a long way from the days when investors were hesitant to invest in the area because they were concerned about their safety. This is no longer a problem.”

Galvez responded to writer Raissa Robles’ tweet on June 2 by saying that casting a negative light on Mindanao is “worrisome.”

After Robles questioned the capability of Mindanao areas to protect foreign tourists from the rebel Abu Sayyaf Group, Galvez expressed his concerns (ASG).

After incoming Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco put forth her plans to further open up Mindanao to foreign visitors, Robles sent out a tweet.

“We’re not sure what Ms. Robles’ aims are, but she’s causing dread among local and international visitors to Mindanao.” “She’s establishing a terrible image of the place in the public’s mind, which I find concerning,” Galvez added.

Robles’ negative opinions of Mindanao as a whole, Galvez added, must be “unfair” to the present and former administrations, local government units (LGUs), and the security sector, who “have been working extremely hard to put an end to Mindanao conflict” for years.

He noted that the same stakeholders were “tireless and unrelenting” in improving Mindanao’s overall peace and order situation.

“Ms. Robles claims to have spent a long period covering terrorism in Mindanao. If this is the case, she should be aware that terror group attacks have decreased dramatically during President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s term,” Galvez remarked.

The number of violent occurrences has decreased.

According to Galvez, the increased presence of military forces within villages resulted in a considerable decrease in violent occurrences in the Sulu archipelago.

“Specifically, through military brigades and battalions strategically stationed in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi,” he added.

“As the former commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), we focused on countering the danger presented by the ASG and other terror groups by making our presence felt and working closely with local government units to maintain peace and security in their territories,” Galvez said.
As a result of the efforts, many ASG members have returned to the folds of the law and are now living peaceful lives.

“The ASG’s membership is declining. Hundreds have already surrendered and are reuniting with their families in peace. They have lost control over the villages, particularly in Basilan and Tawi-Tawi,” he stated.

Galvez said he observed and felt the commitment of LGUs and their communities to rid their areas of criminal individuals, address the core causes of armed violence, and bring genuine peace and sustainable development to their towns during his time as an active military member.

“Having previously worked closely with local chief executives and other community leaders for many years, I could sense their passion and desire to portray their communities in a more positive manner. He even created a catchphrase: “from terrorism to tourism.”

When it comes to Mindanao, Galvez believes Robles is trying to conjure up memories of the “wild, wild west,” but in actuality, “this island region is now emerging as a premier eco-tourism, trading, and commercial powerhouse.”

“This is an out-of-date depiction of Mindanao.” It’s reminiscent of Mindanao in the past when armed clashes were commonplace. This is the picture of Mindanao that we want to leave behind now that genuine peace has arrived,” he continued.

Collaboration in the name of peace

The coordinated efforts of LGUs in Mindanao, notably those in the Tawi-Tawi, to emphasize their territories’ tremendous eco-tourism potential “have started to pay dividends,” according to Galvez.

He said that the Sulu archipelago, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi have world-class beaches, mangrove forests, and gorgeous sandbars.

“These areas are also proud of their historical landmarks. The Sheikh Makhdum Mosque in Tawi-Tawi, completed in 1380, is a witness to the area’s rich cultural legacy,” he said, saying that the BARMM’s commercial activities have risen in recent years.

“One of these is the launch of Philippine Airlines’ direct flight from Cotabato City to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. The first flight is set to take place on June 9. He stated, “It is the first flight within BARMM.”

Galvez also credited the Bangsamoro peace process’ important achievements, particularly the successful execution of the Bangsamoro peace agreements, for the reversal.

“The foundations of peace have been created in Mindanao by the Duterte Administration and earlier administrations, allowing sustainable development to take root.” This is the peace legacy we want to leave behind, which we hope will be continued by the next administration,” he added.

When Galvez hears “generalized narratives that peace and security circumstances in the island region remain precarious,” he feels disheartened.

“We all know that being fair, honest, and accurate in reporting is a core guideline among journalists. It’s frustrating, though, when a member of the press who claims to support these same standards goes the other way,” Galvez added.

Robles, according to Galvez, should first visit the Mindanao districts before making unsubstantiated claims regarding the island region’s peace and order situation.

“As a result, I welcome Ms. Robles to visit Mindanao and witness firsthand the true state of peace and security in the island area.” The trip will expose her to the reality of life on the ground. Who knows, after her visit, she might have a change of heart,” he remarked.

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