Angara said this aid initiative will be vital for the long-term prosperity of the region and the country in light of the current conflict in Sabah which can displace some 800,000 Filipinos.
"Prosperity, development and peace in the region will hasten the process of turning swords into plowshares. All the more should this be urgently pursued with the Sabah issue being at the forefront right now," he said.
"There must be a peaceful resolution to the conflict we face in Sabah. But peace can only be truly sustained if it coincides with true economic growth and development,"
The Marshall Plan, officially the European Recovery Program, was the first United States aid program to rebuild Europe after the end of World War II. Between 1948 and 1951, the US poured financial aid totaling $13 billion into the economies of recipient countries in Western Europe. The Plan was named after US Secretary of State George Marshall who spoke of the urgent need to help in the recovery of European economies in his address at Harvard University in June 1947 to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism.
Angara said the scaled-down Marshall Plan for the ARMM should be broad and sweeping, with the following components :
- Educational investment, to reverse the illiteracy rate in the region, historically the highest in the country;
- Infrastructure investment, to modernize the infrastructure of the region which has not kept pace with the modernization of other regions; and
- An agriculture and fishery development program, to fully tap the rich agro-fishery resources of the region.
Angara stressed that a coordinated, sweeping approach to development is ideal for the region, given the investment void that the government has to fill. This, he said, is the reason he is proposing a bigger, more ambitious development program.
The education component of the proposed development program for ARMM will be heavy on skills training and citizen empowerment, while investments in infrastructure will include enhancing the power generation capacities in the region, he also said.
Angara said the Mindanao Regional Development Program and other institutions can be tapped to help the ARMM identify the priority investment areas and the major components of the plan.
"The region actually has much potential for tourism, given its lush scenery like Tahing-Tahing beach in Tawi Tawi or Tagbili in Sulu," said Angara, who co-authored Republic Act 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009, which declares a national policy on tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth and national development.
According to the lawmaker from Aurora, there have been proposals to the Department of Tourism (DOT) by ARMM youth groups to promote the tourism industry by first urging residents to visit provinces within the region.
ABOUT REP. EDGARDO "SONNY" M. ANGARA
Rep. Edgardo "Sonny" Angara is the Chairman of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education and Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, Philippines. Inquiries about Rep. Edgardo M. Angara may be directed to the House of Representatives Rm. N-305, Phone: 931-5001 local 7344.