WB to remain a Mindanao dev’t partner

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 September)—Reiterating their support to the Mindanao peace process, a senior World Bank official (WB) yesterday vowed to sustain the Bank’s assistance to various development initiatives in the southern Philippines.

Axel van Trotsenburg, WB Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific, also urged the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be steadfast to the peace agreement they forged last year.

“Building peace takes time, especially where poverty and conflict have become prevalent. We hope all parties stay the course in Mindanao, because there is no alternative to peace,” he said in a statement.

Van Trotsenburg said the WB is committed to provide continuing support to the Mindanao peace process by financing critical projects in infrastructure, community-driven development, and social services to support job creation.

The WB executive made the commitment in different meetings in Mindanao on Monday, including one with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim at Camp Darapanan, the front’s headquarters in Maguindanao province.

Van Trotsenburg brought with him officials from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm, to also meet leaders of civil society groups in Cotabato City.

He said the Bank can contribute to areas where affected communities in the ARMM hope for positive change in terms of improvement in maternal health, education, and infrastructure. These efforts, he said, will generate employment and provide opportunities to escape poverty.

“The Bank continues to believe in the peace process for a region that was seriously affected by conflict.  We look forward to working with all parties – the government, the MILF, the private sector, local communities and development partners – in transforming the ARMM into a region of prosperity and successful poverty reduction,” van Trotsenburg said.

During his visit, van Trotsenburg was also accompanied by executives of the country’s top companies, such as the Ayala Corp, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Manila Electric Company and First Agri Holdings Corp.

The WB visit was aimed at exploring investment opportunities in the autonomous Muslim region. The Philippine Business for Social Progress, which last year launched the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program, co-organized the activity.

Van Trotsenburg reiterated how the World Bank and the IFC are eager to work closely with the private sector to facilitate investments that create new job opportunities for the conflict-affected population.

In particular, he pointed out the need for quick-impact programs that will address the immediate needs of communities as raised by MILF Chair Al Haj Murad.

Murad, according to the World Bank statement, underscored the importance of the involvement of the private sector in helping realize the aspirations of the people of Mindanao for just and lasting peace, which in turn will benefit the entire country.

Under the peace accord of the government and the MILF called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro inked last year, the Bangsamoro government will replace the ARMM once the Philippine Congress enacts the enabling law. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)