Civil society, development experts weigh in on prospects for the people of Mindanao, after winning the peace

By Julius D. Mariveles

It is the region that exports gold and caviar. It is also here where the lives of some people are like those in the least developed countries of Congo and Zimbabwe in Africa.

And as hopes continue to run high for the passage and signing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, those desiring peace must now answer the question: What should happen after the guns fall silent?

Academics, civil society organizations, and development experts weighed in on this issue during a forum on opportunities for development and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro held in Makati City today, Tuesday, September 23.

“The momentum for peace is building up… development and progress will come on its heels,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said in a statement read by Undersecretary Jose Lorena.

PARTICIPANTS sign up for the forum on development opportunities and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro | Photo by Cong B. Corrales

PARTICIPANTS sign up for the forum on development opportunities and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro | Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, was optimistic that the partnership between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has “blossomed into a partnership and the possibility of peace (in Mindanao) excites our neighbors.”

“There are endless opportunities for development,” she added.

The forum was held as the Philippine Senate started its deliberations also today on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that shall be the legal framework for the Bangsamoro that will replace the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro is envisioned to cover the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. The drafting of the BBL followed the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels.

Poverty and the resulting hunger are the gut issues that must be addressed in the Bangsamoro areas, Fermin D. Adriano, senior policy advisor of the World Bank State and Peace-Building Fund told the PCIJ.

Adriano, who is also project and World Bank lead consultant for the projects in Bangsamoro, delivered a talk titled “Development opportunities in the Philippines with the signing of the CAB: More, less, or no impact?”

He said that the share of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the gross regional domestic product is a negligible 0.8 percent .


Four of 10 persons in the Philippines are located in Mindanao, many of them concentrated in the ARMM areas. Too, seven of 10 people in ARMM are poor, twice more than the poverty incidence in the entire country.

Adriano cited a big drop in the education index in the three provinces of ARMM between 1997 and 2000. The largest losers are the provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Sulu, and Zamboanga Del Norte. “There is practically stangation within the ARMM areas,” he said.

In fact, according to Maria Lourdes D. Lim, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority, the 2012 to 2013 Human Development Report showed that the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) levels were reported in nine areas in Mindanao, three of them provinces in the ARMM – Sulu, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi.

Sulu has the lowest HDI of .266, “comparable to the least developed African countries like Congo and Zimbabwe,” Lim added.

The HDI is defined “as a measure of a countery’s average achievements in three basic aspets of human development: longevity, knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Longevity is measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge is measured by a combination of the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio; and standard of living by GDP per capita (PPP US$).”

DRAFT Bangsamoro Basic Law

International advisor Sam Chittick, on the other hand, said fast political transition in conflict areas can lead to “local elite capture.” He pointed out that, “development alone does not reduce conflict and it can actually exacerbate conflict.”

Chittick, who has worked in conflict areas around the world, spoke for the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities, a joint United Nations-World Bank project in support of the Mindanao peace process.

He also posed questions that must be answered as development efforts kick in and if the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be approved by the government. these include: What changes will the average Mindaoan want from the Bangsamoro? What difference will it make in their lives?

“The focus should be on potential opportunities and not recipes,” Chittick said.

The forum was organized by the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies in partnership with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, The Asia Foundation, ARMM Regional Board of Investments, Mindanao People’s Caucus, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, United Youth for Peace and Development, Women’s Peace Table.

Check out our blog tomorrow for more stories on the opportunities for development and the Bangsamoro.

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