by Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan
For the Philippines Development Forum on Bangsamoro
November 6, 2014
SMX Convention Center, Davao City, Philippines

Colleagues, friends, and partners; ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

In behalf of the National Economic and Development Authority, allow me to congratulate the Bangsamoro Development Agency for completing the herculean task of crafting the Bangsamoro Development Plan, which will help bring better opportunities for the Bangsamoro as it moves towards recovery and development during its transition years and beyond. The Bangsamoro Development Plan provides a vision, short- and medium-term strategy, and recommendations to promote growth and development of the Bangsamoro.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of this transition period, which has already begun in mid-2014, and will continue until mid-2016. In just two short years, we need to demonstrate the dividends of peace in the Bangsamoro region by progressively bridging the development gaps caused by decades of conflict; we need to attain the stability and normality necessary to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in the succeeding years and ensure lasting peace in all its communities. The social, economic, and political foundations that will be laid during this time are crucial to the success of the new Bangsamoro Government that will be established pursuant to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Our goal, as stated in the Philippine Development Plan, is to achieve inclusive growth. While we see gains in the Philippine economy, we cannot claim full success as long as there are those who are left behind. Our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters deserve to benefit from and contribute to the growth and the crafting and implementation of the Bangsamoro Development Plan is a major step towards this. Yet, as we know, the best plans are but maps illustrating the road that we must take. It is still up to every one of us to move forward and take the necessary steps to achieve a just future and better quality of life for the people of the Bangsamoro and the Philippines.

A lasting peace can only be attained when the causes of discord are fully addressed. And, the roots of conflict will only be truly eliminated when every citizen—regardless of creed, gender or ethnicity—is able to enjoy good health, education, and quality of life; to live with freedom, honor, dignity, and justice; and to contribute his or her talents, potentials, and capabilities to the betterment of his or her community and society.

To fully transform the Bangsamoro region into a peaceful society with a responsive government and a robust economy, it will take decades of hard work and massive resource investment. In providing a clear set of directions for rehabilitation and development, the Bangsamoro Development Plan complements the ongoing political and normalization transition work, and brings the people of the Bangsamoro, the island of Mindanao, and the Philippines, closer to our vision of development for all.

We, at the NEDA, are proud to have been part of this Philippine Development Forum which provides us the opportunity to discuss in concrete terms the ways by which we will build together the future of the Bangsamoro. It is notable that this two-day event gathers the representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; the Bangsamoro Development Agency; local governments and the national government, led by President Benigno Aquino III; our international development partners; and members of civil society and the private sector; to discuss the overall vision, framework and flagship projects for development in the Bangsamoro. Our discussion will not be about abstract promises, but development commitments regarding vital clusters such as economy and livelihood; environment and natural resources; infrastructure; social services; governance, culture, and identity.

An old African proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together. As we proceed with the process of establishing and activating the Bangsamoro, may we continue to nurture the spirit of harmony and cooperation that has brought us to a new beginning for the Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the Philippines.

Let us not forget, however, that there will always be those who will feel left out in this process, whose voices may not be heard in this forum. So even as we bring our minds together in this event, let us continue to listen, be sensitive to, and consider others’ views and sentiments to ensure that development will truly be inclusive and that the gains we achieve will last.

Thank you all, and may we have a productive forum.