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Gatchalian on SONA: Peace and security deserve top billing

PANTAR, LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Children from Marawi City make do with an improvised see-saw as they seek refuge at an evacuation center in a school in the nearby town of Pantar, Lanao del Norte, 4 June 2017. Reacting to the State of the Nation Address of the President, Senator Win Gatchalian said detailed assurances and concrete plans are needed by the people of the strife-torn Marawi in rebuilding their city and their lives. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian on Monday said he appreciated the prioritization of peace and security concerns during the second State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Considering the volatile peace and order situation in Mindanao, it was timely for the President to devote a lot of airtime to the issues of violent extremism in Mindanao and the communist insurgency,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, reiterated the need to bring a speedy and decisive end to the various conflicts in Mindanao “in order to encourage strong foreign investments and foster a stable environment for long-term inclusive growth in these impoverished areas.”

To help achieve this goal, the senator said he would support the President’s proposed initiatives to enhance the defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

However, Gatchalian expressed that there was room for improvement with the President’s treatment of the Marawi conflict in his address, specifically concerning the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

“I wish the President had presented more concrete plans concerning government efforts to rebuild war-torn Marawi City. The hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who have been displaced by this conflict are still clamoring for detailed assurances from the government regarding how it will help them rebuild their lives,” he said.

In addition, Gatchalian commended the President’s new hardline stance against the CPP-NPA, the revolutionary movement which has had a complicated relationship with Duterte during his first year of office.

“The President’s firm stance against the communist rebels shows that this government is committed to ensuring that it is in control of peace negotiations. Any lasting peace settlement between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA should be made on the government’s terms, period,” said Gatchalian.