Tuesday, 23 September 2014 14:51
(BY: JESS G. DUREZA) KOTA KINABALU — I haven’t been to KK for many years. But I liked what I saw when my Malaysian Airways Flight MH 803 docked on the bay bridge. (Yes folks, MH in spite of those recent tragic flights! We don’t fly over Ukraine airspace anyway, so no worries.) Several hours earlier, I was fumbling my way looking for Gate 16 at rundown NAIA Terminal 1 in Pasay City that was mostly boarded up for renovations. Sorry to say, but I always agonize comparing our NAIA airport terminals with other international hubs. KK international airport at 3 a.m. early dawn arrival was still looking plush and modern. The elevated flyover and the widened highway to Sutera Resorts, less than 10 minutes away were something new to me on this trip. Sutera resort hotels and a golf course by the bay sit totally on reclaimed grounds.
MOU & EXPO — I flew to Sabah principally to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in behalf of UNIVERSITY OF MINDANAO President Willie Torres (who was unable to leave at the last minute) with Datuk Wong of the Asian Tourism International College. The MOU will link up the two educational institutions for exchange, partnership and complimentarity across borders. Then of course, it was nostalgic for me to be part of the private sector delegation in the biennial Sabah International Expo under the BIMP EAGA flag. The famous VILLA MEDICA GERMANY, a regenerative and anti-aging health facility specializing in Fresh Stem Cell Therapy (FCT) also set up a booth there, upon my suggestion.
BIMP ROADSHOWS — The KK metropolis had grown tremendously. Even the Sabah International Expo (SIE) that is held every 2 years has attracted more than 30 foreign-country participants, according to Ms. Susan Chang, one of the principal movers of the event. I was impressed at Sabah’s strides during a briefing done by the Sabah Economic and Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) which I attended with former BIMP EAGA senior official Merly Cruz (who retired as DTI undersecretary) together with MINDA’s staffer Sylvestre “Boom” Sales, an agri scientist. The MINDANAO DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (MinDA) is our local equivalent of SEDIA.
By the way, next month in October 22-26, Mindanao and Palawan will also stage their own BIMP EAGA roadshow at the SMX Convention pavilion at SM premiere in Lanang with MinDA in the lead. We hope to see the same level of participation. I got a call from the father of BIMP EAGA, former President Ramosthis Sunday ( he was in some golf fairway in Manila) confirming that he will grace the Davao event. To him, it will be time for stocktaking and see where BIMP EAGA is, after all these years.
COMMON STRUGGLE — Strikingly similar with Mindanao is Sabah’s continuous struggle and advocacy for more attention, more resources and affirmative action from central government. This is due to our common remoteness and challenging policy issues with imperial Manila and peninsular Kuala Lumpur respectively. For example, SEDIA said Sabah’s per capita income is only one-half that of the peninsular north. Sabah and Sarawak in North Borneo are separated geographically from the main Malaysian peninsula although they are the two biggest federal areas situated down south.
There is concerted effort to grab as much fund support as possible from national for the region’s development that still lags behind. The same is true with Mindanao.
When I talked to a native Sabahan who brought us around the city, he said a mouthful. He said Sabah is 50-50 Muslim and non-Muslim. He claimed much of the revenue- making oil and gas coming out of North Borneo, all go to peninsular and federal Malaysia but the back flow of funds to them in Sabah is in trickles. That is why there is some noise about Sabah and Sarawak seceding and wanting to be independent from Malaysia so they can own and manage their own resources for their own people. A campaign called “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” is mentioned in the press. (“keluar” is exit). But he said this is not a popular sentiment. And he is worried that if Sabah and Sarawak do leave Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei next-door are just waiting “in ambush” to make a grab! Both have territorial claims that pre-dated governments. Sounds like a familiar refrain? And to think they are already federal. He also claimed many locals believe Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is popular in the area and that the sodomy charges are trumped up by those in power for political purposes.
SECESSION TALK — On board the plane enroute to KK, I sat up reading a Malaysian newspaper playing up stories about the recent founding anniversary of Malaysia and some mention about the federal states Sabah and Sarawak getting out or seceding from peninsular Malaysia. Coincidentally, when I was at Magellan Sutera hotel, I watched in my room with keen interest the on-going vote in Scotland where the Scots were deciding whether they would secede from the United Kingdom. Of course the “NO” vote won. I recall what a Tausug from Sulu, a member of the Moro National Liberation Front told me when I earlier said I was going to Sabah. He said: “Go ahead, Sir. Claim Sabah for us! And bring it back home with you.” I had a good laugh but I could see he was serious. But then, seeing how progressive Sabah is today, we may reverse the tables and I will not mind if Sabah will “claim” and merge with Mindanao instead! ( ha ha ha!)
“VEILED THREAT”? — Talking about secession, that reminds me. I read the most recent editorial posted in www.luwaran.com, MILF’s official website. It quoted MILF Chief Al Haj Murad as saying that if Congress should eventually pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the implementation of the agreement should be satisfactory to the Moro, then it would remove the reason and cause for secession. To this I agree. But then to some it could be interpreted as a “veiled threat” too; that if things go wrong, the Moro struggle will continue. I find this unacceptable. Let’s face it. The onus of making this collective effort succeed rests not only on the GPH which is going all out to approximate the Bangsamoro aspiration. It must be equally borne by the Bangsamoro and its leaders, most specifically by Kagi Murad and his group. If something goes wrong along the way, there must be NO TURNING BACK. The search for peace should continue, how hard and long it may take, notwithstanding. But going back to war again is no longer an option. For the MILF, it already took an irreversible route.
GOOD FATHER — Whatever the outcome of these efforts, it may be good to remind the MILF, the MNLF and others similarly situated that government is doing its best to address their aspirations and concerns. But there are limits that they should not breach. And that they should not further test its resolve. Nor continue to threaten government. Just like a “good father of the family” (Principle of pater familias) the Philippine government will have to give enough leeway to complaining children. But then there are thresholds, when breached, will prompt the father to take out the disciplinary belt to bring them into line. — 30—
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