Revisiting Mindanao 2020
Mindanao accounts for about a third of the country’s land area and a quarter of the country’s population, yet a mere seventh of overall income, measured in gross domestic product or GDP. It’s not because of lack of natural resources; on the contrary, Mindanao appears far more naturally endowed than Luzon and the Visayas. Our southern regions could easily account for a much greater share of the country’s production and incomes, had it not been for long-standing barriers to lasting peace therein.
It was against this backdrop that the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), then known as the Mindanao Economic Development Council, embarked in 2009 on the formulation of a new 20-year blueprint for Mindanao’s future. A previous 15-year blueprint known as Mindanao 2000 covered only up to 2010, hence the need for a sequel plan, dubbed Mindanao 2020. The plan (downloadable at minda.gov.ph) covers up to 2030, notwithstanding the name, chosen for the catchy and suggestive nature of the number (as in 20/20 vision). As a framework plan, it aims to guide the various strategies, policies and programs to be undertaken for Mindanao in the two decades it covers.
The great diversity found in Mindanao presents a daunting challenge for any such planning exercise. There is wide variation across the island group in terms of natural and physical endowments and attributes, historical and cultural backgrounds, ethnic composition and political perspectives. This diversity made it imperative that wide consensus be sought, to the extent possible, in crafting the blueprint for Mindanao’s future. The planning team composed mostly of Mindanawons that I was tasked to lead reflected similar diversity in backgrounds, disciplines and cultural perspectives (one member, Samira Gutoc Tomawis, is now running for the Philippine Senate). We thought it wise to adopt a listening mode in the design of the planning process. Our task, as we saw it, was to “facilitate the participatory formulation of Mindanao 2020,” rather than “play God” and draw up the plan ourselves.
Indeed, Mindanawons ranging from ordinary citizens to erudite scholars have long known what needs to be done to “fix” Mindanao. There was no need to reinvent the wheel; we saw the content of Mindanao 2020 to be largely in place. It was the process for putting these together to achieve a widely owned and supported plan that was seen to be the real challenge.
The Mindanao 2020 team employed a survey, focus group discussions (FGDs) all across Mindanao with participants who could speak for much wider constituencies, and interviews with personalities knowledgeable on and/or influential in Mindanao. More than 300 prior FGDs undertaken by Konsult Mindanaw, spearheaded then by Fr. Bert Alejo (who was part of the team), also fed into the plan. We scoured the literature to gather recommendations from past analyses, consultations and discussions.
Having heard the perspectives of thousands, the 2030 vision for Mindanao that emerged was: “Mindanawons of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds shall have attained a sustainably uplifted quality of life through their collective achievement of a peaceful, developed, autonomous and integrated Mindanao that is the vanguard for the country’s sustainable development.” The plan was organized around five thematic areas: peace and security (“Peace Once and for All”); human development and social cohesion (“A Mindanao Free of Want, Free of Fear”); economy and environment (“In Quest of a Dynamic, Inclusive and Green Mindanao Economy”), in a deliberate integration of the two; governance (“Self-reliance and Self-determination Fulfilled”); and enabling conditions (“Requisites for Realizing Mindanao 2020”).
Now nearly midway through the plan period, MinDA is revisiting Mindanao 2020, and has assessed how well its milestone targets have been met. Some have been exceeded, while some have fallen short. Meanwhile, three Mindanao regions, including Muslim Mindanao, have grown even faster than the overall economy. If the newly ratified Bangsamoro Organic Law succeeds in ushering in lasting peace and stability in Muslim Mindanao, we can all expect that the best is yet to come.
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