BRUSSELS, Belgium – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Wednesday urged Europe and the rest of the international community to support the framework agreement signed two days earlier by the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) representatives, describing the historic accord as the country’s “first step in a long and determined journey to peace and progress.”

“It is such a decisive step that we hope Europe, together with the rest of the international community, would not hesitate to extend every possible support to this initiative,” he said in a speech before heads of state and leaders of developmental organizations attending the European Development Days (EDD 2012) in Brussels.

The Vice President added he believes the Bangsamoro framework will bring development to Mindanao.

“The establishment of a political entity known as ‘Bangsamoro’ will bring to a final and permanent close a secessionist insurgency that has cost our country so much in terms of human and material costs, and held hostage for so long the development process in a region so richly endowed with good weather, fertile soil, lush vegetation, a hard-working and enterprising people, and a wide variety of mineral resources,” he said.

The Vice President told the gathered leaders and development experts that one of the goals of the Bangsamoro framework is to transform the nation’s economic and social fabric and improve people’s lives.

“Our earnest desire to eradicate social injustice and inequality and make human development the main driving force and central motive of our peace and reconciliation efforts with the various parties in armed conflict with the State has finally begun to bear fruit,” Binay said.

He said he also hopes the signing of the accord with the MILF would help push peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP).

“Encouraged by this breakthrough, we hope we could soon finalize our next peace agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, and the National Democratic Front,” Binay said.

In his speech, the Vice President also highlighted the Philippines’ success in implementing a practical model for development and poverty alleviation through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) that provides access to health, nutrition and education, particularly of children aged 0-14.

He said efforts to end poverty are best enhanced under a democratic system of government such as the Philippines.

“It is time to demonstrate that poverty is not at all a function of democracy; that, to the contrary, democracy provides the best ethos, institutions, tools and skills to conquer poverty,” he added.

Binay said the 4Ps program aims to help fulfill the country’s commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

He said through this program, the government helps families address their most basic material needs so that they can focus more on health and education, particularly of their women and children.

“In exchange for these cash transfers families are required to avail themselves of pre- and post- natal care, to attend family development sessions, to ensure that their children receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines and enroll and attend at least 85 per cent of their classes in elementary or high school,” Binay added.

While in Brussels, the Vice President also met with several key European Union officials.

He discussed air safety and seafarer training standards with European Commission Vice President and Commissioner Siim Kallas and explored possible cooperation on migration issues under the EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility with Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

The Vice President is also set to discuss the EU’s humanitarian aid to the Philippines with Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and is scheduled to talk about bilateral development cooperation, including the EU’s support for the peace process with Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Binay will also visit Luxembourg and meet with Vice President Mihai Tanasescu of the European Investment Bank.  The EIB has been a development partner of the Philippines since 1993, and has provided long-term financing for development projects in the country.

The EDD 2012 is centered on the theme ‘Inclusive and Sustainable Growth for Human Development”, with a focus on sustainable agriculture, food security and resilience, engaging the private sector for development and empowering people for inclusive growth.

The forum brought together the PRESIDENT of Cyprus, which currently holds the rotating Presidency of the European Union, and the Presidents of Benin, Mozambique, Senegal, Malawi, Gabon and Mauritania and Ministers of EU partner countries.

Previous EDD’s participants includeD European leaders such as Jose Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal; Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden; International leaders such as Donald Kaberuka, President African Development Bank; Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator, United Nations Development Program; and business leaders such as Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin and George Soros, Founder of the Open Society Institute.