21 Mindanao projects worth P17B are funded

With Mindanao accounting a third of the Philippines’ poor – but only a quarter of its population, unlocking the island region’s potential is critical in bringing down poverty in the entire country, says a new report launched last Friday by the World Bank, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

The report titled “Philippines Mindanao Jobs Report: A Strategy for Mindanao Regional Development”  explained in a forum at Marco Polo Davao that the main challenge for Mindanao, like the rest of the Philippines, is how to speed up growth that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty.

Secretary Abul Khayer Alonto, Chairperson of MinDA, said the strategies identified in the report could not be more timely and relevant to the priorities that have set out to pursue under the Duterte administration.

“Under our long-term development plan as approved and included in the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022, we are pursuing socio-economic development initiatives through the Mindanao Development Corridors,” Alonto said.

In a press statement,  the report came up with recommendations around three areas, namely: Raising the productivity of Mindanao’s farm and fisheries sector and improving its connectivity and access to local and global markets; Investing in health, education, skills training, and social protection for the poor; and addressing the drivers of conflict and strengthening institutions in conflict-affected areas.

Secretary Alonto said that Mindanao’s growth corridor strategy is the key, as it is designed to improve infrastructure, enhance linkages between growing and lagging regions, and ensure balanced growth. Such a strategy would lead to greater connectivity that can reduce transportation costs and improve the competitiveness of small farmers and other producers.

“The corridor strategy divides Mindanao into four development corridors: the Northern Mindanao Development Corridor, Southern Mindanao Development Corridor, Western Mindanao Development Corridor, and the Bangsamoro Development Corridor,” Alonto said.

The same information revealed 35 projects that  facilitate movement of people, goods and services – consisting of ports and airports improvements, inter-regional and intermodal roads, bridges, and roll-on/roll-off shipping facilities. These projects are given priority for national government funding. A total of 21 of these priority projects already have funding, amounting to P17 billion.

Former Sarangani governor Miguel Dominguez, chairperson of Philippine Business for Social Progress Regional Executive Committee, said that unlocking Mindanao’s potential could help sustain the country’s growth momentum, create more income opportunities for the poor, and help strengthen the prospects for peace.

“To help achieve this goal, PBSP promotes inclusive business practices to ensure that communities are active stakeholders and partners in the value chain – as producers, business partners, employees, or consumers. We continue to partner with various levels of government and advocate corporate social responsibility consistent with the values of people empowerment, collective action, and peace anchored on just and equitable development.” Dominguez added.

Mara K. Warwick, Country Director for the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Brunei,  said that currently accounting for 15 percent of the country’s GDP and 40 percent of agricultural production, Mindanao can contribute much more to the Philippine economy. But she admitted that conflict in some areas constrains Mindanao’s aspirations to accelerate inclusive growth.

“Hence, addressing the issues that fuel conflict – such as land ownership disputes, historical injustices, and weak governance – is important, as are accelerated efforts to improve land titling and registration and promoting equitable access to land, especially among small farmers,” Warwick said.

“While the government addresses these issues through the peace process and other initiatives, improving delivery of social services and reforming policies to support job creation and economic opportunity for all can help ensure the success of peace-building efforts,” Warwick said.