RAPPLER.COM -PEACE BROKER: President Aquino meets with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Malacañang before the signing of the Framework Agreement between the government and the MILF. Photo courtesy of Malacañang photo bureau.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica- President Aquino admitted the historic signing of the framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) gave him “wedding day jitters,” as described by the Cabinet.

“It’s like you have agreed already but the day is here,” Aquino told reporters while on a state visit to Australia.

He said the actual preparations for the signing alone took a week, aside from the weeks of putting things in place before the actual signing on Oct. 15.

“Of course you have to prepare and ask yourself if everything is complete,” Aquino said.

During his visits to New Zealand and Australia, the framework agreement with the MILF was a “big development” for officials, according to Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, along with their officials, congratulated Aquino for the framework agreement.

[PHOTO -MAORI WELCOME President Aquino picks up the “rakau tapu,” or dart, during the arrival honors on the lawn of Government House in Wellington on Tuesday. The President is starting a state visit to New Zealand on the invitation of Prime Minister John Key. MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU]

During the business meetings, the issue was often mentioned.

Aquino vowed to continue working for inclusive growth, especially in Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The Philippine economy has been turned around, and it is continuing to gain speed. And I am here today to invite you all to come along, and to be part of the Philippine story,” Aquino said during a forum with Australian and Filipino businessmen in Sydney.

The President also explained the framework peace agreement with the MILF would basically set the parameters on how to actualize autonomy for them and promote growth for all, including Mindanao.

He said MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told him they would need to demonstrate to the rebel fighters that the framework agreement was relevant to them.

Aquino said the government had allocated more than P20 billion to improve infrastructure and basic services such as health and education in the ARMM so they would see the government’s seriousness to improve their lives.

He said Malacañang would no longer just use the ARMM for command votes and cheating during elections.

“We elect half of the senators every three years – the 10th, 11th, and 12th positions may very well be determined by the number of votes they got in the ARMM. So given the command votes, the regional governor would practically exercise the rights of a feudal warrior in medieval times,” Aquino said.

The President said the organic law for the Bangsamoro political entity should be ready by the end of 2015 and the whole process of establishing the modified ARMM would be done by 2016.

“Mindanao has always been for us the Land of Promise... There is a proposal, for instance, to connect Luzon to Mindanao using a nautical highway which is a series of roll-on, roll-off ports and new highways that will cut down travel time from the present three days to a mere 15 hours,” Aquino said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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