Mindanao Trust Fund to infuse P166M for projects in conflict-affected areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Apr) – The Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA) signed a new program partnership agreement with Community and Family Services International to implement projects worth $3.2 million or equivalent to P166 million from the Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) to construct socioeconomic infrastructures and improve literacy in conflict-affected areas.

The Bangsamoro Development Authority office in Cotabato City. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

In a statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Secretary Jesus Dureza said the new partnership will support confidence-building and the “normalization” in the Bangsamoro area under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

Dureza said the projects would “improve the quality of life of people in conflict-affected areas through community participation and the pursuit of sustainable livelihood within a peaceful, deliberative society.

“For four years, we have been reaching out to our fellow Filipinos in the south, touching lives and taking ‘peace by piece’ steps towards a developed Bangsamoro,” he said.

Supported by development partners Australia, Canada, European Union, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United States, the 12-year-old MTF consolidates international development assistance for the socioeconomic recovery of the communities affected by armed conflict.

Established in 2006, the MTF-Reconstruction and Development Project implemented 573 projects, including infrastructure, livelihood, and literacy program in 315 conflict-affected areas across 75 municipalities with a funding support from development partners reaching P1.4 billion, according to the OPAPP statement.

MILF peace implementing panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said the efforts of government and development partners in supporting the development in Bangsamoro “reinforce people’s trust on the Bangsamoro peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

The MTF also supports projects in six acknowledged MILF camps such as Abubakar, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal.

Mara K. Warwick, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, said they are committed to support efforts to develop Mindanao because greater economic opportunity and access to basic services foster hope in conflict-affected areas.

The WB-funded Mindanao Jobs Report said about 60 percent of residents in conflict-affected areas live below the poverty line and the “reputational damage” caused by security concerns slowed down growth even in unaffected areas by limiting investment and tourism revenues.

The study said the decades-old armed conflicts in Mindanao affected 62 percent of the island’s total population, dampened efforts to reduce poverty level, and kept the businesses small-scale and small farmers at subsistence level to “avoid kidnap and extortion.”

It added that areas known to be unaffected by violence “bear the fiscal burden of coping with displaced persons.”

Citing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the study said that nearly a million residents were displaced due to a series of armed clashes in August 2014, displacing 41 percent of the population of the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and adjacent provinces.

It further said that residents from BaSulTa (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) in ARMM and Central Mindanao migrated in 2015 to safer areas in the Philippines and estimated that around 470,000 Filipinos went to neighboring Sabah, Malaysia, of whom 25 percent are considered “stateless” with no birth certificates or passports to prove their nationality, reducing “their access to jobs and services and increases their vulnerability to exploitation.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)