WB urges PH to pursue Mindanao peace deal (Published: September 15, 2015)

The government has been urged to "stay the course" in pursuit of a peace deal in Mindanao, which is seen as the only lasting way to secure economic development in a region that has been stunted by a decades-long conflict.

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank's (WB) vice president for East Asia, this week called on officials to show commitment to striking an agreement that seeks to end violence in the Philippines' south.

"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," Van Trotsenburg said in a statement Monday.

This comes amid deliberations in Congress over the Bangsamoro Basic Law—the result of a peace deal between the Aquino administration and the separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Efforts by the government to end war in Mindanao have come under scrutiny after a botched anti-terrorism operation that led to the deaths of 44 policemen and over a dozen others earlier this year.

World Bank officials and private sector executives were in Cotabato City this week to touch base with civil society groups and MILF leaders.

During his visit, Van Trotsenburg, along with executives of some of the country's top companies, including Ayala Corp. chaired by Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Manila Electric Co., Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., and First Agri Holdings Corp., met with the leadership of the MILF in Camp Darapanan to explore investment opportunities in the region.

Van Trotsenburg pledged that the multilateral lender would help corral investments that would lead to economic development and job generation in Mindanao.

The visit to Cotabato marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Mindanao Trust Fund, which has supported economic and social recovery, as well as effective governance, in southern Philippines.

More than half a million people in 214 war-torn communities from 75 municipalities have benefited from the trust fund, which has helped finance the construction of new roads, classrooms, health clinics and community centers and improved access to electricity and water supply.

"We look forward to working with all parties—the government, the MILF, the private sector, local communities and development partners—in transforming the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao into a region of prosperity and successful poverty reduction," Van Trotsenburg said.

He said the bank can contribute in areas with affected communities in the hope of 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," Van Trotsenburg said.

"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," he said.

Van Trotsenburg said the World Bank was also conducting a study to provide recommendations on how to boost employment in southern Philippines, particularly in conflict-affected areas.

The study, called the Mindanao Jobs Report, will summarize existing analytical work and undertake research on job creation in the area. The report will be released in July 2016.

Date Published: 
Tuesday, September 15, 2015