Presidential aspirants offer solutions to issues in Mindanao

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What's in it for Mindanaoans if one of these presidential aspirants wins? (From L-R) Binay, Santiago, Duterte, Poe, and Roxas speak up on prominent Mindanao issues, including poverty reduction and peace talks during the first official presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Mindanao is home to more than 21 million Filipinos, to a rich culture not only in relation to history but to Moro and Lumad inhabitants, and to natural resources, garnering the moniker "fruit basket of the Philippines."

This, as Mindanao is also hounded by poverty and violence.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show five out of 10 of the country's poorest provinces are located in Mindanao, including Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Norte, Sarangani, and North Cotabato.

Peace talks have also been prevalent since the time of former president Fidel V. Ramos in the 1990s, but the government of the Philippines and rebel groups have yet to see the outcome of these measures.

Most recent is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is still pending for approval in Congress.

Presidential aspirant and legislator Grace Poe gave her take on the issue during the Mindanao leg of the presidential debate organized by Comelec, KBP, GMA Network and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"Nais ko ay magkaroon ng transparent, inclusive at sustainable na kasunduan. Kailangan isama lahat ng mga grupo, pati mga Kristyano. Habang nag-uusap, sundan ng mga proyekto sa Mindanao. Ayusin ang problema ng kuryente sa Mindanao. Importante na magkaroon ng trabaho sa Mindanao. Kasama sa usaping kapayapaan ay development," Poe said.

[Translation: "I am vying for a transparent, inclusive, and sustainable agreement. All sectors should be included, including Christians. While talks are ongoing, projects in Mindanao should be pursued. Electricity issues in Mindanao should be resolved. It is important to add more jobs in Mindanao. Development is inherent in peace talks."]

For Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, speaking to his kababayans (townmates), federalism or swaying from the Manila-centric governance in the Philippines is the key to ending poverty in Mindanao.

"With the failure of BBL, there is great threat. Unless we can come up with federalism. it is very important. I will also offer federalism to [Moro National Liberation Front founder] Nur Misuari," said Duterte.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas wants to focus on providing better infrastructure for Mindanaoans.

"Tutugunan natin ang pangagailangan ng pagtatayo ng tulay. Habang totoo na napag-iwanan ang Mindanao, hindi na nangyayari 'yan ngayon. P260 billion ang dumating sa Mindanao nung nakaraang limang taon. Hindi pa enough, pero tuloy-tuloy ang ating programa. Yan ang nangyari sa 'daang matuwid,'" said Roxas.

[Translation: "We will respond to the need for building more bridges. While it is a fact that Mindanao has been left behind, this is not the present case anymore. P260 billion has been alloted to Mindanao during the past five years. This is not enough, but our programs are still ongoing. This is the result of the 'daang matuwid.'"]

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) bet and Vice President Jejomar Binay will focus on health, while making sure that public funds are used accordingly.

"Batay sa aking karanasan at tamang pamamahala at malasakit sa mahihirap, tigilan na ang underspending o underperformance. Maraming namamatay kasi di nabibigyan ng tamong gamot. Kailangan po tayo na magdagdag ng gastos sa pera para mabago ang ating buhay," Binay said.

[Translation: "Banking on my experience, good governance, and solicitude with the poor, underspending and underperformance should end. Many have died because they were not given ample medical attention. We need to hype public expenditure to improve our lives."]

For Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, issues — not just in Mindanao — can be resolved if Filipinos will elect a competent leader in the country's highest post.

"Walang bahid sa kanyang record. I hope this country deserve to be what God wants it to be," Santiago said.

[Translation: "His/her record should not be tainted. I hope this country deserve to be what God wants it to be"]