Prolonged ceasefire tops emerging issues on development

Dr. Fermin Adriano, consultant to the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) and senior advisor at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), put the issues forward last Monday in a review conference on paradigms of development in Mindanao.

Adriano, in his paper presented to the First Mindanao Studies Conference, said the consideration of the issue is utmost in moving the peace process forward.

He cited the impasse over the inclusion of additional areas to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the proposed "Bangsamoro Juridical Entity" and the manner by which the areas will be included.

Adriano cited that many donors are waiting for the peace agreement as cue to extend more aid to conflict affected areas as "peace dividends."

"The challenge is how to use the available limited assistance to create a real impact on confidence-building to convince the rebels of the sincerity of the government in finding a negotiated peace settlement of the conflict," he said in his paper furnished to conference participants.

The kind of approach, the mode of assistance, and the manner of implementation, Adriano said, will affect the peace building objective.

He said allowing communities to participate, own the projects, and empower them in the process will partly address some of the root causes of the conflict like "feeling of exclusion and marginalization."

Adriano noted that previous forms of aid failed because projects were implemented in the area without regard to sentiments, aspirations, and participation of the people.

He told MindaNews that a major cause in the failure of implementation is the absence of an effective monitoring system to check if the projects are delivered as planned and on time.

He said for a time the government implemented infrastructure projects that it failed to monitor.

Adriano noted that it is only lately that development efforts have diverted from mainly infrastructure focus to capability-building.

He said there has been a proliferation of development plans and frameworks in Mindanao. "But there will only be minimal benefits to Mindanao residents if the funds are not fully utilized according to schedule and scope," he said.

He also cited the need for the government to assert the direction of development work in Mindanao, considering that donor agencies and other organizations have their own "pet projects." He proposed the formulation through wide-ranging consultations of an integrated plan to set such direction.

Adriano said the other emerging issues include the need for effective local governance.

He said a major source of disincentive for potential entrepreneurs to invest in Mindanao is not only due to existence of rebel groups, but more often to threats of common criminals, which he said is a function of the local government.

Adriano cited that the looming extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and the conflicting land claims in Mindanao as other related issues that could affect development in the island.

Increased investments in mining activities are also considered a flashpoint for possible conflicts, he said.

Adriano's paper cited the increasing trend of urbanization in Mindanao. He said new frameworks will have to be developed to ensure the transition from rural to urban areas will not create social problems and worsen poverty in rural areas.

He also cited the emergence of the island's information and communications technology industry, which could spawn further disparity between urban and rural economy.

Adriano counted the looming power crisis in Mindanao with hardly no new power generation projects undertaken.