MY CONDOLENCES go out to the families of the MILF fighters who died fighting ISIS forces in Shariph Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao last week. According to news reports, seven men were killed by ISIS-affiliated groups after a half-day battle in the area. This clash, like all others before it, was unnecessary and only serves to worsen tensions in the area. I am assured that these mujahideen will be granted jannah for their bravery and heroism.

It is also proof that despite our best efforts, ISIS ideology still exists in Mindanao. Over the past year, we have made great strides in the fight for the right to self-determination; the plebiscite, the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and the appointment and installation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority as the interim government of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. These are all important to the greater picture of our people, and for our progress moving forward.

However, when we still have conflict and violence in our communities, we can never be successful. We have discussed, and continue to discuss, the driving factors as to why one would pursue violent extremism. We have cited the lack of a sense of purpose, belonging, and identity as being a major issue. These are valid, and we must still continue to study these motivations further.

What we are missing, however, are the obvious: if people in the Bangsamoro have no trust in the government, and if they still lack basic resources such as food, clothing, and shelter, they will seek for those things elsewhere. It is simple, in that we know that these things exist. What are we, as members of the government, mandated to do when poverty and inequality still plague our constituents?

Chief Minister Murad's mandate on moral governance cannot start when we cannot address these concerns. When we cannot feed, clothe, house, and educate our people, our government will have failed. In order to succeed, the Bangsamoro needs concrete programs and activities that directly address the root causes of social inequalities. In addition, the Bangsamoro needs to work with different sectors that are also invested in the welfare of the people.

There are some who feel that the block grant is a pie, and everyone must fight for a larger share. This is not the case. We cannot rely on this fund alone. In order to become truly self-sufficient, we must realize that the block grant is not enough.

We need to empower our people and help them to develop skills that they will need to enter the workforce. We need to build industries that would be sustainable and bring back income to their communities, as well as provide opportunities for socioeconomic enterprise. In order to do that, we need to have clear programs that help to uplift our people, as well as clear public policy regarding these platforms. This way we can gain the trust of not just our investors, but of our constituents and the Filipino nation.