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LANAO: THE “CROWN JEWEL OF MINDANAO”



ARNOLD A. GARBANZOS
Iligan City, Philippines
March 29, 2018

I write today to set a national policy direction for my Province, Lanao which by itself is a Province State -- meaning it can be a country or nation of its own detached from this Republic. Lanao is also the “barometer of corruption” in this Nation -- it is supposedly the brightest area in our country but is today the darkest and that for me is because of corruption and of laws which have been detrimental to Lanao from the very beginning. 



Because of this, I have the boldness to say “that if we cannot aright Lanao then we cannot aright Mindanao and if we cannot aright Mindanao then we cannot aright this Nation”. In short, if we cannot aright Lanao, then we cannot also aright this Nation. Lanao in its truest sense is the “real seat of power of this Nation”.

Lanao is the Crown Jewel of Mindanao for several reasons:

It is a “Singapore” of the Philippines-an area capable of being a Nation or country by itself without the help of this Republic. We do not need an IRA, DAP or PDAF in order to survive. We can be the symbol of self-reliance and self-sustainability for this Nation.

It is the “Battery of Mindanao” empowering 65% of it and in return Mindanao contributes no less than 54% to the GDP of this Nation-a possibility which would never happen if not for the power and energy resources of Lanao.

It is also the “Fresh Water Capital of the Philippines” receiving no less than 10 million liters per day-thanks to the Lake and its huge watershed up in the City of Marawi.

Lanao is also the “Home of the Maranaos” a Tribe whose culture and values are as unique as the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Amazingly the Chinese, the Japanese and the Koreans have in one time in their history become hermit kingdoms, the same like the Maranaos and yet today are economic power houses worldwide. Perhaps such a destiny awaits Lanao in God’s proper time.

Given the right laws and policies Lanao can be a Province wide Special Economic Zone (SEZ) capable of attracting all Nations to its shores. It is designed to be an international destination like Singapore.

It could also be the biggest “Green Economy” in Mindanao because of its hydro power and fresh water capabilities. The dreams of Madame Gina Lopez of DENR could find its reality in Lanao and more.

Lanao can also be the area in our country where there would be zero squatters. It could be the first Province in our country where squatters could be virtually non-existent, simply because we have the means to do it. With power, energy and fresh water at our beck and call we could practically create villages and guilds (villages with industries) all over the Province and wipe out poverty. And this is a possibility that the NHA, the OPAPP, the NPC and the NGCP has never seen.

Of all the NPC units all over the country many do not realize that it is only NPC MINGEN in Lanao that makes money. MINGEN is practically the engine that runs NPC throughout the country. Without MINGEN in Lanao, NPC as a whole operates at a lost.

Take note that even before China took over the Spratleys at the West Philippine Sea they already took over our power industry by the presence of the National Grid of China at the NGCP where I believed they have a 40% stake! You see how covetable Lanao is to the Nations?

I always wondered that why with such a capability of NPC MINGEN, no Iliganon has ever sat as President of NPC? Most of those who sat are either from Luzon or the Visayas but never one who is from Lanao? Perhaps it is now time for an Iliganon or someone from Lanao who should sit in NPC MINGEN. Nobody knows Lanao and its capability like we do.

Lanao has the capability of being a Makati, Subic, Taguig and Clark all rolled into one!! With billions of pesos generated everyday from the Agus Complex and given the right dues Lanao can be a Mega Metropolitan area.

Take note that one of the Ayalas earliest investment in Mindanao was in the only Islamic City in our country-Marawi. That is why we have the Marawi Resort Hotel which was formerly and even now fondly called the Ayala Resort Hotel. The Ayalas know the potential of Lanao and that is why they are there. That resort hotel was built sometime in the 1980s long before Ayala had other major investments in Mindanao.

With all these capabilities and attributes Lanao easily becomes the richest Province in Mindanao if not for government laws and policies which undermines and understates its progress.

Lanao is also the “Home of Federalism” being the only Province in the country which did not signed the 1935 Constitution-because we really wanted a Federal set-up from the very start.

Lanao also is the “Barometer of the Bangsamoro”- the entire Bangsamoro looks up to Lanao as its guide post of influence and directions.

For the Bangsamoro their destiny and outlook will NOT be determined by the oil fields of Sulu nor the natural gas deposits of Maguindanao but will be determined by the hydro resources of the Lanao Provinces. How we treat the waters of Lanao for the good of its people will be the determining factor of the Bangsamoro’s attitude towards this Nation. Where Lanao goes the entire Bangsamoro goes. If Lanao will not pay the NPC and NGCP, expect BASULTA to do the same.

Lanao therefore holds the destiny of Mindanao in its hands. The region’s peace and stability will rest on Lanao’s condition and how the National Government will treat its people. If the Government is “unrighteous” to Lanao, then expect Lanao to reciprocate the treatment. If the laws and policies of this Nation towards Lanao will be self-serving to the few (oligarchs and politicians) then expect Lanao to “explode” at any given time.

If the richest Province in the country, becomes a pauper then what does this Nation expect in return? If the brightest, becomes the darkest- then seeking the light becomes the duty of its people more so for the Maranaos. And this is the purpose of why I write on behalf of my beloved Lanao.

To my Maranao brothers remember what the Prophet (pbuh) once said, “Verily Allah will never change the condition of the people unless the people change the conditions of their hearts”. Perhaps it is now time to ponder and ask ourselves why we have become dark when we should have become the brightest in this Nation. When will this condition change? And how will a people change its heart unless Allah intervenes on your behalf. Ramadan is fast approaching, perhaps this could be on top of your prayer list when the season starts.

To my Christian brothers you are living in a territory which is the richest in the Nation. It is a “Malampaya” a thousand times over and that is why China Grid is here through the NGCP. It is time to unite with our Maranao brothers and work as one for the good of all. Let us not be limited by religion and biases towards each other. Our common enemies want to divide Lanao and we must be wiser. Lanao will only rise when Christians and Muslims put our acts together. This has been demonstrated by our leaders in the past and we can do this again today. Let the Christian spirit of love and peace prevail over our hearts and be Christ-like towards our “Samaritan” brothers-the Maranaos of Lanao.

One of our Nations greatest mistake in showcasing territories is focusing on areas which are already bright like Subic, Clark and Davao. That for me is the wrong way to go. If we want this Nation to rise- showcase and open up opportunities in areas which are dark and make them shine. Because when the darkest shines, then expect those who are already shining to shine even brighter.

Perhaps it is time for Government to review its laws and policies in the light of Lanao’s tremendous potentials. Everything will depend on laws which we make or do not make for the area. Take for example the following:

1. EPIRA-seeks to privatized the Agus Complex which should not be the case-since it’s a God given resource. EPIRA has not returned to Lanao what it rightly deserves

2. LAKE LANAO DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY-always sought for by its people but never materialize. Bills have been passed in several Congresses but has never become a Law for reasons we do not understand

3. LAKE LANAO WATERSHED PROTECTION AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OR LLWPDC-always a Presidential directive with no teeth. Administration is with NPC but funding with DENR. Up to now no funding since 2003. Funny thing Marawi and Lanao Sur is ARMM territory but DENR Lanao del Sur is under Region 10!? Are we confuse or what?

4. LANAO WATER RESOURCES AND MANAGEMENT BOARD-always a dream never a reality. Lanao has not develop its fresh water industry. Unlike Singapore today which makes $S 1. 6 B out of its water resources and 11, 000 jobs (as of 2015) yet Singapore has no water resources at all!!?

5. LANAO ISLAMIC INDUSTRIAL AND BUSINESS COUNCIL-seeks to develop Islamic industries and commercial enterprises like Takaful insurance, Amanah Banking etc-the missing equation in the development of Muslim Mindanao-the needed partner of the Mindanao State University (MSU) and which should be under the DTI. Like we always say in Marketing, “manufacturing minus marketing is equal to waste”.

6. LANAO TRI-PEOPLE PEACE COUNCIL-A much needed Body to pursue and maintain the gains of the “Dansalan Peace Covenant” initiated by then Congressman Ali Dimaporo and Senator Tomas L. Cabili who laid the Foundation as to how both Lanao Provinces should treat each other and make it grow by leaps and bounds. Christians and Muslims acting and moving as one people for the good of each other.

This should be an agency under the OPAPP.

One of the greatest limitations to Lanao is a Unitary form of government. Because of this set-up the strengths and the “bank book” of Lanao are held by corrupt politicians and oligarchs-adding to the feeling of oppression by its people. The greatest oppressors of Lanao are the power and energy players who have long been controlling the destiny of the Agus complex and this Nation-starting with the Ramos administration. Take note of the structure of the power industry-PSALM, NPC, NGCP, DOE, ERC etc. so many regulators yet very few benefits for our people. Lanao could not even enjoy premium rates or subsidies-in terms of oppression we are the most oppressed area in the country. The power industry is the most “scammed” “robbed” and manipulated in the entire country to the detriment of the Lanao Provinces. Federalism is the key to our freedom as a Province and as a people.

You want drugs to stop in Lanao? Give us our proper dues. Do not continue to chain us in oppression under a Unitary government. Return the power industry to us and we will show you how we will make our area rise.

Proper review should also be done on ER 1-94 of the DOE Law and the Share of National Wealth of the LGU Code since two of Lanao’s greatest strengths-power and water-do not seem to work in favor of its people. We still see a lot of people in Lanao suffering in abject poverty and mendicancy. Lots of squatters line up the shorelines of Iligan, drugs abound, kidnappings and carnappings happen every now and then, the industries are close and unemployment is at an all time high.

Lanao has developed energy and several heavy industries yet it forgot to develop two of the most fundamental industries in the area and for which the National Government must also be faulted-peace making and the fresh water industry.

No industry or area would survive without peace and that is foundational. You want to build peace in Lanao and Muslim Mindanao? Then building homes and houses all over the area is the key. The main issue of Mindanao is land and no solution is more basic than building homes and houses on a massive scale all over the area. This is where the NHA and OPAPP must partner.

The funding for this grand endeavor can be found in Lanao’s two greatest strengths-power and fresh water and is “hidden” somewhere in the laws of our land waiting for the right time for its unfolding and unleashing. This simply needs to be pointed out to the President and our law makers.

Fresh water on the other hand is a world wide industry. With soft drinks, mineral water, juice factories and bulk water suppliers all over the world the strength of the fresh water industry cannot be ignored. Singapore alone which has no water resources at all generated 11,000 employment and S$ 1.3 B of revenues out of their water industry in 2015. Think how many times over Lanao would do compared to Singapore.

In terms of Laws and policies in placed or not in place the sins of our Government towards the Tri-people of Lanao are of commission and omission.

Lanao also is the area of our Nation which has the greatest impact for national transformation. It is the 20% needed to transform 80% of Muslim Mindanao. When a Christian predominantly Nation seeks the betterment of the minority Muslims, then that action would be enough to get the attention of the entire Muslim world, specially the Monarchs of Saudi and Brunei and open the flood gates of investments pouring into Lanao and Mindanao. In a world today where Muslims seem to be unwelcome specially in America, an alternative investment destination is being sought for. It would better be in Lanao.

Because of lack of opportunity and abject poverty specially in Lanao del Sur, most of our Maranao brothers look to politics as the main alternative for their livelihood and progress.

The principles of Islam is against politics but what can a Maranao do in the face of scarcity and lack in a very rich area like Lanao? Guns, goons and gold proliferate and with it comes drugs and all illegal activities. This Nation has turned the richest area in Mindanao into a den of thieves and robbers simply because it does not appreciate what Lanao has contributed to this Nation.

When supposedly the richest Tribe in our Nation, the Maranaos, are enjoying the bounties of their area-they have today become the poorest except for some and privileged few who have managed to claw their way through the upper echelons of our society through politics and intimidation.

It is for this reason that we were the only Province in the country which did not signed the 1935 Constitution. We saw this situation coming but nobody listened to the reasoning of Lanao through our representative then, Senator Tomas L. Cabili. We could not understand why a Constitution which was patterned after a Federal nation like the U.S. become Unitary instead. It was because of this that Senator Cabili warned of war in Mindanao way back in 1935 and made him say one of his famous quotes, “I have a sentimental fondness for loss causes however I am not afraid to walk alone”

It is therefore imperative and of the highest priority that this Nation amends its Constitution and correct the situation of Lanao and Mindanao.

We are glad that President Duterte, who himself has Maranao blood understands the situation very well. Our advice to him is on top of your war on drugs, make it a priority to Federalize this Nation-return the richest of Lanao to its people and you will see drugs dwindling all over the country.

Jewels are expected to shine, if they do not then it is to the tragedy of this Nation. I pray the present Administration sees the light and corrects the situation or else expect a worsening situation which will affect and reverberate throughout the entire Nation. I share this as a Brother Filipino giving advice and not as a warning. I know Lanao and I know the Maranaos-they are all willing to die for a righteous cause. They are one of the most loyal and most patriotic Filipinos and friends I have ever known. They are very generous too just treat them well then you will see their generosity.

Just to show you how powerful Lanao is, allow me even one day to shut down the entire Agus complex for 24 hours then let us see what will happen to Mindanao. If Lanao decides to shut down more than 50% of the GDP of this Nation, then you will realize how precious Lanao is to this Nation.

Never underestimate the potential and capability of the “Jewel of Mindanao”.

TNRS
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