Thank you very much, Secretary Amenah Pangandaman for your introduction.
[Please take your seats.]
The Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, Secretary Charlie Galvez Jr.; Senator Loren Legarda; the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Chief Minister, Minister Ahod Ebrahim; Basic, Higher, and Technical Education Minister, Mohagher Iqbal; the Deputy Chief Minister Ali Sulaiman; esteemed members of the Bangsamoro government; fellow workers in government; other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
Today, I join you, brothers and sisters in the observance of Lailatul Isra Wal Mi’raj or the Night Journey and Ascension of Prophet Muhammad into heaven at a period in his life when he was facing intense hardship.
This meeting of the National Government and Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body or IGRB – the sixth under my Administration and the first meeting for this year – reaffirms our shared commitment not just to peace, but to peace with progress.
It builds on the gains of the past, fueled by mutual trust, guided by lessons learned, and inspired by the many wins, which give us the confidence that our shared vision for the Bangsamoro will be fully realized.
That we have been pursuing our commitments with urgency is shown in the activation of all the seven mechanisms of the IGRB in less than two years.
We are acting with dispatch not because of the deadlines that we have set for ourselves, but because a people, battered by war for years, should not be denied their destiny to live in peace.
The IGRB discussions, I understand, were frank and forthright.
And that, my friends, is how peace is forged, through the honest exchange of ideas. That is also how peace is made durable, by allowing all parties to speak with candor.
This democratic hallmark of finding common ground –through consensus, not conflict – is what also led to the rich harvest of Bangsamoro enacted laws.
I congratulate the Bangsamoro Transition Authority for passing the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, the Bangsamoro Civil Service Code, the Bangsamoro Education Code, the Bangsamoro Electoral Code, and the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code.
For these are major pillars in strengthening the rule of law, upon which peace is founded.
This will be the institutions to which you will hold fast as you build your government and you bring out people to progress.
I would even venture to say that Bagong Pilipinas is incomplete without a Bangsamoro rising along and within it. [Applause]
At maymayroon nga tayong mga bagong programa upang makamit natig lahat ang tunay na kaunlaran at kapayapaan para sa Bangsamoro.
The peace we are enjoying has not only won the hearts of our people, but recognition around the world.
Last November, we signed and exchanged Diplomatic Notes with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan on the Non-Project Grant Aid for the acquisition of 6.8 million dollars’ worth of Construction Equipment for Road Network Improvement and Disaster Quick Response Operation in BARMM. [Applause]
In July last year, we signed the guidelines of the joint award of Petroleum Service Contracts and Coal Operating Contracts in BARMM. [Applause]
This is one of the many activities that will guarantee an important kind of security for BARMM, and that is energy security because the painful truth is that a politically empowered people living in darkness is not fully empowered at all.
What I have mentioned are on top of the continuing engagements of the United Nations, of JICA, the European Union on programs that strengthen governance institutions, public services, and financial administration.
Another feather in your cap is the success of the Bangsamoro Board of Investments in generating 3.3 billion pesos worth of investments in the last three months of 2023, which will employ 1,927 workers. [Applause]
And I am sure that these are just a few entries into your thick catalogue of achievements.
They just highlight the things that matter most to our people, for whom we are walking the hard but high road to peace.
Because peace is neither found in the documents we have exchanged, nor in the elegant prose of our agreements, nor in the minutes of these meetings.
Peace to our people is found in jobs created, schools opened, farms irrigated, new hospitals opened, roads constructed, businesses launched.
To us, there is only one true peace when the bloody tally of war is replaced with a scoreboard of development.
And that scoreboard shows that peace has won, and the war is over.
The preparations we have made will be tested in May 2025, when we will hold the very first elections for the BARMM Parliament.
Giving the vote to the people to choose their leaders is the logical, succession, evolution, to the grant of self-rule to your land.
I urge all of you, and we will be y your side, to make this very historic election, this very historical and important event a success.
Let us show the world that it is peaceful and it is credible.
On this, let me be blunt that perhaps we must remind ourselves that we are now operating in different rules and that we cannot allow forces outside of the democratic process to deviate our dreams and our aspirations from a democratic process, let us not allow even one single voter to be disenfranchise by violence, by intimidation, or by bribery. That is the job we have in front of us.
And after the elections, it will be a new chapter for BARMM.
I face the future with optimism. What gives me hope is the belief that you have prepared well. You are ripe, you are ready.
And so, this early, let me commend the peacekeepers who are here for their untiring spadework, for building, out of the ashes of war, the magnificent edifice of peace that is BARMM, building it brick by brick.
And as we mark this historic day, let us never forget the debt we owe to those who perished during the long night, from all sides, brothers all, combatants and civilians, whose blood nourished the land so peace can finally bloom.
But above all, we owe this to our children, to our grandchildren, that the horrors and the harrows of the past must never visit them again; that as brothers and sisters united under one nation, we can forge a better future in a kinder society where opportunities reward hard work, dreams can come true, and peace with justice will reign.
A stronger BARMM means a stronger Mindanao, [applause] and a stronger Mindanao means a stronger Philippines, bringing us closer to achieving our Agendas.
I congratulate you, once again, I thank you and I wish you all the best in all your endeavors.
Mabuhay ang BARMM! Mabuhay ang Bagong Pilipinas!