ROUGH CUTS| What ‘inclusive development?’

THESE days’ common mantra of the government and the business sectors is the so-called “inclusive development.”

It is their call, their invocation possibly to taper down the impact of the great social divide between the economically advantaged group and those who are suffering from economic deprivation. But even as this incantation is appearing to be the by-word in almost, if not all gatherings of government socio-economic planners as well as the country’s leading business personalities there is still difficulty in discerning who between the two sectors is “walking the talk.”

Clearly the government is wanting insofar as implementing programs that would lead to “inclusive development” although its planners will readily disagree with our observation. On the other hand, there are a few large business conglomerates that are moving towards investing in projects outside Metro Manila in an effort to expand the reach of their products and services and provide additional employment as well.

These multi-billion corporations are also integrating into its portfolio the so-called social investment where they source the money they are using in giving back to the communities that welcome and patronize them.

But then again, the initiatives of these business giants are still far from ideal ranged against the number of marginalized people in areas they operate. In other words, the reach of the “inclusion” of their businesses is still hardly felt, their claim to the contrary through media mileage notwithstanding.

Of course the bigger guilt belongs to the government. All we need to do is make a serious observation how the central government is excluding the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi from its fair share of development initiatives. We believe that it is this “exclusion” that is stoking the fire of separatist intentions among our Moro brothers in those areas.

It is this same neglect in the provision of meaningful development projects that are also isolating the island local governments, and perhaps some other heavily Moro-populated Mindanao mainland provinces, from the investment plans of huge business corporations.

This lack of government support in the herein-mentioned areas is exacerbated by the media’s failure to come up with fair reporting programs for things happening in these Mindanao provinces. Isn’t it that we hardly hear of any positive news coming from Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi? Even the heavenly beautiful sights in these provinces are ignored by the media.

What are carried with prominence in national television and radio broadcast as well as in national and even regional newspapers are incidents as kidnappings for ransom, armed encounters between the government troopers and Abu Sayaff militant groups, bombings, killings and other negative incidents.

We have yet to hear the national government announce the start of implementation or the inauguration of big ticket infrastructure projects in any of the provinces we have cited. Even in the allocation of development projects under the clustering of the Mindanao area we have not seen a single program that can be looked upon as possible game changer in the said provinces.

This is the reason why when we learned of a television network reformatting its newscast to be a “One Mindanao” scheme we were optimistic that the positive things, the beautiful resources and potential opportunities will be brought into the national consciousness. Thus, we are hoping the positive attributes could help entice Manila or Cebu- and even foreign-based investors to put in their money in these “isolated” Philippine provinces.

If only for the information of some of us who did not have any idea of what Basilan and Sulu were like before the onset of the Moro separatist movement the former province was host to massive rubber plantation of Sime Darby, a multi-national company engaged in the manufacture of vehicle tires. The latter province (Sulu) was also provided electricity by the Cebu-based Aboitiz and Co. It only gave up the franchise when power distribution was taken over by cooperatives under the National Electrification Administration (NEA). Even Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, a Marcos Defense Minister, used to have a huge plantation in Basilan that was later put under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and distributed to its employees.

If those glory days of the three island provinces are to be restored, we believe it is imperative that the national government must do its share in making these areas conducive to investments. With the apparent difficulty of winning its war against the Abu Sayaff bandits despite the huge war resources available at its disposal, perhaps the better strategy is for government to fight the war in its other fronts –  economic and societal.

Government must make the people in these provinces feel that they are very much a part of the Philippines by giving what are fairly and rightfully due them.

For its part, we believe, we in the media must undertake a more inclusive reporting strategy in order to bring out the potentials of the provinces if only to provide balance in the creation of outsiders’ perspective on the Moro-dominated areas.

And by the way, talking of the media’s role in creating an inclusive society, whatever happened to the grand plan of putting up a purely Muslim television channel by the government? Has it fallen into the quagmire of exclusionist intentions?

Posted in Opinion