ligan City - As the government gradually shifts its efforts towards rebuilding and rehabilitating the Islamic City of Marawi, Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Datu Abul Khayr Alonto assures the new batch of Marawi graduates that the city will rise stronger and better.

In his Commencement Speech delivered to around 2,000 graduates of the Mindanao State University Main Campus last July 13, the Maranao leader expressed his hope for the future professionals to contribute to nation-building and work with the government in rehabilitating Marawi.

"My dear graduates, use what you have learned from MSU to broaden your perspectives, to remain confident and optimistic in Mindanao, to be hopeful about its future and deeply committed to being an instrument of peace," Alonto said.

This is the first time for the MSU Marawi to hold their commencement exercise outside of the campus, holding the ceremonies instead at MSU Iligan Institute of Technology, following the siege that befell the city last May 23.

"What happened in Marawi 52 days ago, is unfortunately personal to all of us; for somehow, there are amongst us who must have lost their loved ones; a family member, a friend, colleague, classmate or teacher; and there are those who will never ever make it to march in this halls or witness this kind of event in their lives," he added.

The first Muslim MinDA Chairman however noted that despite what happened, Mindanao still holds great potential to be the country’s frontline for economic growth owing to its rich, largely untapped natural resources and a competitive and literate labor force.

"Throughout history, our darkest hours are always followed by our finest moments. We are at this point where time and circumstances accord us excellent opportunity to build a strong nation in Mindanao and dismantle the national divide," Alonto said while noting that there is a need to capture the historical dimensions of development in order to bring back lasting peace in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao.

He also cited the strong commitment and determination of the Duterte administration to effect both structural and institutional reforms that bring in bright prospects for lasting peace and development in Mindanao and herald a turnaround for its future and the Bangsamoro people.

Under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, MinDA works with all stakeholders to create an environment conducive for business growth. The agency collaborate in Mindanao to pursue better governance, financing access, reliable power, infrastructure and connectivity, as detailed in one major program called Mindanao Development Corridors that will include a Mindanao Bangsamoro Economic Corridor and the Tawi-Tawi Economic Zone and Freeport.

"We use this agenda to effectively leverage for better and reasonable budget allocation from the national government to fund priority road networks and bridge projects to connect Mindanao and provide direct access to poorer communities," Alonto added.

Alonto is the former Vice Mayor and Mayor of Marawi City. He was the Interim Head of the Regional Autonomous Government, served as Ambassador and former Philippine Head of Mission. He was also the founding leader of the Youth Wing of the Muslim Movement in the Philippines (Lam Alif and MNLF).
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