SCHOOL FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a School for Peace and Democracy (SPD), inspired by an experience in Aceh. The exploratory visit to Indonesia was participated in by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership. (UNDP photo)

Vastness of Muslim Mindanao wealth inspires major donor

COTABATO CITY – The sheer volume of natural potentials within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has encouraged the inception of a major program by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The UNDP has been implementing pro-poor projects in the Philippines for over 40 years.

Its assistance to peace and development efforts in the South has ranged from livelihood provision, health and literacy campaigns, support to local agriculture and fisheries, and conflict resolution education.
Last year, the donor agency introduced a School for Peace and Democracy, a specialized course aimed at helping former combatants embrace a peaceful transition to progress. 

In an article published on the UNDP website, authors Enrico Gaveglia and Chetan Kumar cited some of the potentials of Mindanao that may be tapped and optimized by peaceful governance.
Gaveglia is the UNDP Philippines’ Officer-in-Charge while Kumar is the organization’s Peace Programme Team Leader.

They wrote that the BARMM “is one of the wealthiest in the Philippines in terms of natural resources. An Eden on Earth.”

Gaveglia and Kumar added that “the region boasts of hydroelectric power from Lake Lanao; plentiful banana, coconuts, mangosteen, and durian plantations; fish and seaweed from the oceans; and mineral treasures in the form of basalt, chromite, manganese, gold, silver, and copper.”

Yet, these competitive advantages were not exploited because “people are historically more challenged in ‘Eden-like’ environments,” they lamented, adding that “violent conflict has, for decades, prevented the sustainable and inclusive utilization of these resources, and damaged businesses, the environment, and the region’s export potential.”

The government had inked a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014. Four years later, Congress green-lighted a Bangsamoro Organic Law.

A Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) was set up in 2019, the tenure of which is currently the subject of an intense campaign for an extension.

The BTA’s life span was originally set by law until 2022. But Muslim and Christian leaders, as well as grassroots organizations across the BARMM, have called to extend the period to 2025.

Proponents of the extension have cited the need for more time to firm up institutional systems and policies that favor social equity and economic progress.

Gaveglia and Kumar noted that “the region’s full potential cannot be realized unless its current leaders—former revolutionaries from the major Moro armed groups—implement an inclusive vision for peace and sustainable development.” (PR)