By John Tria
Davao City — As the first morning after of the 60 day martial declaration dawns on this city, life is normal, with the usual hum of daily economic activity apparent.
Our social media feeds were unsurprisingly filled with posts along two general themes: martial law supporters and martial law haters. Supporters hail the decisiveness and resolve, which, as of presstime, have kept markets steady.
Of course, most of those who do not agree with martial law come from Metro Manila, while the support for martial law comes mainly from within Mindanao.
Before we argue on the merits of such a measure, let’s look at what this response is trying to address. What exactly is at stake here?
For one, the livelihoods of millions seeking better lives as investments enter North and South Mindanao. Travel to Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and Butuan and you will notice a construction boom renewing the city skylines, and employing millions in new retail and BPO enterprises, with increased agricultural output putting more cash in people’s pockets.
For the first time, a good number of northern Mindanaoans working in Metro Manila and Cebu are seriously thinking of relocating back home, what with possible jobs, education and urban comforts becoming more readily accessible.
ISIS incursions into these cities, even sporadic ones may cause more than an economic hiccup, negating gains have been made in the last two years. It is tough enough to lure investments in Mindanao due to the perception of violence among investors, and a criminal incursion may just spoil its momentum.
Second, the food of half the country is sourced from, or passes through, the Lanao-Bukidnon plateau. The uplands straddling the areas from Marawi to Wao, Lanao del Sur, are highly productive vegetable and cash crop farming areas bordering the towns of Kalilangan and Pangantucan in Bukidnon.
Many of these farmers are rebel returnees taking advantage of the high demand for fresh vegetables. As a new highways near completion in this area, produce from local farmers can be brought faster to the port of Cagayan de Oro to be loaded on ships bound for the dense tourist areas of Bohol and Cebu. Increasingly, the Visayan islands have been taking in almost half their food requirements from Mindanao.
Third, mobility and connectivity within Mindanao will be seriously hampered if this strategic area is compromised. As ASEAN integration draws near and the free exchange of goods and people is expected between Mindanao and the Sulawesi and Borneo regions of Indonesia and Malaysia, the risk of these elements is there.
Note that these concerns are way beyond the borders of Marawi City. We must all be vigilant.
Given these, we cannot stress the need to deal with ISIS quickly and decisively, with the same political will and resolve to win a war. No wimpyness and pussyfooting here. Steel and guts needed. After all, they are forcibly taking territory, holding people hostage, and reportedly executing those who do not agree with them. Poverty is no justification for their greed.
The Manila cognoscenti led by Leah Navarro with their doubt, fear, and anxiety over possible abuse must take note that the enemy in question is a greedy and ruthless bunch which, like drug lords, cannot be negotiated with, and must only be defeated. They are welcome to “talk” and “convince” to the ISIS. Good luck.
This greedy evil grew under the nose of PNOY and Mar Roxas, as it is their administration that tried to downplay their presence in Mindanao (http://2016.mb.com.ph/2016/01/16/no-credible-terrorist-threat-in-the-country-aquino/).
This same regime that had a poor track record handling Mamasapano and Zamboanga — these blunders may have emboldened these terrorists to set up shop.
With these attacks on Marawi, we must all cooperate with authorities. ISIS must be destroyed.
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