Peace in Mindanao has never been closer than in the times that martial law is in place. Despite the opposition from some groups, we have been clear from the very beginning of our intentions and our actions so far has proven them wrong.
We have joined rounds of consultation with the primary stakeholders in the peace, security, and development in Mindanao and we have received overwhelming positive feedback, not only on our efficient implementation of martial law, but also its impact to security, local economy, and governance and well-being of local communities. While these are partial assessment, while we wait for an opportunity to visit other areas in Mindanao, we are happy about the significant favorable results we are getting so far.
Martial law has led to increased tourist and economic activity in Mindanao, especially in areas previously thought of as inaccessible to visitors from Luzon and Visayas. The improved security situation is so inviting that it is no longer unusual to find tourists exploring Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Davao, Zamboanga City, or island hopping in Jolo, Sulu. The development created more jobs and empowered residents to become active players in the peace and security of their communities.
With the help of LGU, an unprecedented number of loose firearms have been confiscated or surrendered to the government. A total of 5,685 loose firearms were surrendered in Mindanao. Movements of known terrorist groups such as the New People’s Army, Maute Group, and the ASG have also been constricted. In Eastern Mindanao alone, 11,333 CPP-NPA members and supporters have been given an opportunity to experience a more peaceful and productive way of life. They are joined by over 300 members of local terrorist groups, 572 of which are ASG, who chose to abandon their illegal activities in exchange for reformation and reintegration. By next year, as the trend is sustained, we can make these terrorists irrelevant.
Governance features quality enhanced particularly in the conflict areas in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) wherein the number of recipients of the Seal of Good Governance had increased from six in 2016 to 20 for 2017 and 23 for 2018. This is despite of the more stringent criteria which has increased from four to seven lines of efforts. The economic performance of the ARMM also increased from 4.3 to 7.3 GDP. In particular, Zamboanga which ranked 102nd in 2017 in terms of economic standing jumped to the rank of 41 in 2018.
Despite these developments, we are aware that our job is far from over. We must capitalize on these gains moving forward. The year 2018 has been very productive and beneficial for the people of Mindanao. We thank Mindanawons for their trust and confidence on our soldiers, who to this day continue to risk their life in search for just and lasting peace in the Land of Promise. By next year, we aspire to bring you closer to the peace that you have always dreamt of. But we still need your help, your support, and your trust. We are all witnesses to the changes ushered in by martial law and we know we can do more. Let us continue to make our visions a reality.