Bangsamoro fair showcases products from conflict areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 October) — Forty-two Moro and Lumad enterprises that have been assisted by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao took centerstage in a two-day fair here to promote their products and link up with potential investors.

BDA, a development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has implemented the “Program for Local Economic Development through the Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE)” which started in 2013 to support the families affected by the armed conflicts.

During the opening of the two-day PLEDGE Fair and Inter-agency Meeting at the SM Davao here Monday, Julhaina E. Cadon, PLEDGE program coordinator of BDA, told reporters that they are bringing the products to the city to expose their delicacies, crafts, and furniture to the mainstream market.

“The beneficiaries are those individuals who are caught in the crossfire between the government (GPH) and the MILF,” she said.

Half of the beneficiaries are into food processing while the other half are into furniture-making and garments.

The support extended include, among others, fish processing, Halal bakery, dried fish making, rice and corn support facilities and production, Maranao delicacies production, furniture-craft making, crab fattening, bamboo craft-making, and banana processing.

She said that the PLEDGE was intended to support the Moro and the Lumad families get better livelihood and access to services, build capacities of the Bangsamoro people, and build social unity among communities.

She said they provide the beneficiaries equipment, allow them to identify what enterprise they would like to invest in, and train them on how to create a business plan to do business more efficiently on their own.

“We have two approaches. First is the community empowerment. We empower the community to plan, to decide, and implement their own program. It’s an open menu. Second is capacity building, so we do the business enterprise trainings, how to prepare a business plan,” she said.

She said that PLEDGE includes families, whether Moro, Lumads, and settlers who are affected by the decades-long armed struggle in Mindanao.

From December 2013 to October 2016, the BDA has supported a total of 4,853 direct and indirect beneficiaries and reached 11 conflict-affected communities in six regions such as Central Mindanao, Davao, Lanao, Southern Mindanao, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The BDA has partnered with Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF)  and the International Labour Organization.

The MTF has seven donors such as European Union, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Australian Aid, Canada, World Bank, USAID, and New Zealand

Cadon said that this program intends to form commjunity-based enterprise, transform local resources into high value products, and create sustainable supply and value chains.

Government (GPH) peace implementing panel chair Irene “Inday” Santiago during the Davao Peace Fair 2016 said the group of Muslimin Sema, chair of one of the factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), will get two to three seats in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) as among the 10 government appointees.

She said the convergence of the Moro factions was pointed out by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte who said the Moro people must work together for peace.

Given the limited slots in the BTC for the government, Santiago said they are thinking of “creative ways on how to do the convergence” to ensure inclusivity in the peace process among the stakeholders in Mindanao.

“We’re not having sectoral groups (in the BTC). There will be no representatives because it is difficult to get sectoral repsentatives but we will get a diverse group of representatives,” she said.

Last August 13 meeting in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the GPH and MILF implementing peace panels agreed to increase from 15 to 21 the BTC membership, 11 for the MILF and 10 from the government. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)