Aquino sees BBL approval in ‘next 2 years’
President Benigno Aquino III on Friday expressed optimism that there would be a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) “within the next two years” during a meeting with the head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), which has poured in billions of pesos in socio-development assistance in conflict-torn Central Mindanao.
Jica president Shinichi Kitaoka paid a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacañang Friday morning.
“President Aquino expressed confidence that a Bangsamoro Basic Law may be enacted within the next two years in order to sustain the momentum of the peace process,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
Congress failed to pass the BBL, practically freezing the peace process, as the proposed measure would create a new autonomous region for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao that have for decades fought for self-determination.
Despite this huge setback, Japan pledged its continued support for the peace process and the development of Central Mindanao, which has been for years one of the poorest regions in the country as a result of the decades-long war between Moro secessionist groups and the government.
“The Philippines and Japan will continue to collaborate closely as strategic partners in promoting the peace process in Mindanao and in pushing major infrastructure projects to attain inclusive, long-term economic growth and development,” Coloma said.
Kitaoka told the President that the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) has “resulted in substantial peace dividends, such as the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-Bird).”
Launched in 2006, the J-Bird project focuses on providing funding and technical support to micro-, small- and medium- scale industries in agriculture, fisheries and related services, under the Harvest (Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation) project.
Coloma said that as of mid-2015, total assistance under J-Bird reached P6.1 billion.
The World Bank and Jica have committed to provide up to $250 million in loan funds to support the Harvest project.
“Total credit assistance is expected to exceed P11.1 billion and employment generation for about 21,700 individuals,” Coloma said.
According to Coloma, Kitaoka also commended President Aquino for his role in promoting consensus within the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to support “the primacy of the rule of law” in dealing with the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, as he reiterated Japan’s support for the Philippines’ advocacy to follow the diplomatic and legal track.
Kitaoka also assured Mr. Aquino of Jica’s continued support for major infrastructure projects, especially the North-South Railway Project (North Line) from Malolos, Bulacan, to Tutuban, Manila.
The railway project “represents the single biggest ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) yen loan package that Japan has extended to the Philippines at $2 billion,” Coloma said.
Other major Jica-funded projects are the new P7.1-billion Bohol international airport in Panglao Island in Bohol province and the implementation of the roadmap for transport infrastructure development for Metro Manila, Region III and Calabarzon.
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