In MILF stronghold, Aquino launches social program Sajahatra Bangsamoro

Three months after Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim made history by setting foot in Malacañang for the first time, President Benigno Aquino III did the same, this time by being the first President to enter the MILF camp in Maguindanao. President Benigno Aquino on Monday visited the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao to inaugurate the socio-economic initiative Sajahatra Bangsamoro. In his speech, Aquino expressed hope that the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the administration's commitment to peace and progress in Mindanao, will pave the way for lasting peace, adding that progress in the once war-torn province is close at hand. “Hindi na kailangang maghintay ng mahabang panahon para makaranas ng pagbabago,” Aquino said. Sajahatra Bangsamoro, which means “Peace Bangsamoro,” aims to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of Muslim communities in Mindanao. Aquino also took the time to recall the path which led to the historic signing of a peace deal with the MILF in October 2012. “Others have stumbled in the past, and we were determined not to make the same mistakes, we were determined not to succumb to indiscriminate knee-jerk reactions borne out of anger, or to cast aside true consensus, or favor concealment over transparency in negotiations,” Aquino said. For now, Aquino called on all involved to work towards lasting peace through cooperation. “Magagawa po natin ang lahat 'wag lang po tayong magbibitiw sa tiwala sa isa't isa,” Aquino said. Meanwhile, Murad made a similar appeal for patience, saying that while there have been many victories, much still needs to be done. “It takes more courage to win peace, than to win war,” he said. “We appeal to international community for patience, hindi ito magiging madali,” he added. A law will have to be passed to create the new Bangsamoro political entity, envisioned to replace the “failed” Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). — BM, GMA News

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