Business, Conflict and Wealth Creation in the Bangsamoro
MAKATI CITY, PHILIPPINES – "We believe that with the peace process underway and with the transition into the Bangsamoro, the role of the private sector is crucial in sustaining economic development and peace within the region," emphasizes Manuel De Vera, Executive Director of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership.
On November 25, 2014, the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership and International Alert Philippines, with the support of the World Bank, hosted Business, Conflict and Wealth Creation in the Bangsamoro, at the Asian Institute of Management. The forum, moderated by Manuel De Vera, brought together the private and public sector in a dialogue focused on the economic viability of the Bangsamoro and the dynamics between this potential and the conflict in the region. Many cite the decades-long conflict as an important factor that prevented Mindanao, particularly the ARMM, to reach its economic potential. The agenda of the forum picks up from how the near-culmination of an 18-year peace negotiation signals the improvement of peace and economic conditions in the region. After the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2012, investments in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) increased by 150%. In March 2014, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed and this was a precursor to the reformation of the ARMM to the Bangsamoro political entity through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
While the forum celebrates these developments, the organizers recognize that supporting strategies must be put into action so that the peace created through the BBL is sustained. Early indicarions reveal that investments in the Bangsamoro will increase, however, some businesses remain wary of investing in the region due to the uncertainties brought about by the transition in leadership in the Bangsamoro.
In line with this, International Alert Philippines presented the Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS), which is designed to track incidences, causes and costs of rebellion, violence and crime in the Bangsamoro. Dr. Francisco 'Pancho' Lara, Jr. and Nikki de la Rosa, the Country Director and Deputy Country Manager, respectively, of International Alert Philippines, discussed the data accumulated from the BCMS from 2011-2013 and how this data was gathered to generate relevant information to aid both the private and public sectors in making more informed and data-driven decisions to facilitate trade and investment, more sound policy-making, and more effective development and peace-building approaches. Ever Abasolo, Methodology Adviser of International Alert Philippines, then discussed his article, Bangsamoro to boost economy, which was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on November 16, 2014. Mr. Abasolo took the forum's guests through the 'Magnificent 7' – his take on the 7 major reasons we should watch out for the Bangsamoro as an economically viable region.
A panel of reactors composed of Datu Mohammad Omar Pasigan, Al Hadj, the President of the BangsamoroBusiness Club (BBC); Mohammad Yacob, the Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA); and Aleem Guiapal, the Bureau Director of the Muslim Economic Affairs of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) was then invited to share their insights on the prospects of trade and investment in the Bangsamoro and how the BCMS can further aid this process. The panel expressed support for the continuous improvement of the system, nothing its potential use for the private and public sectors. The audience was then invited to dialogue with the speakers and panelists. Students, professionals, and development practitioners from AIM, the University of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, Ayala Foundation, Inc, and the National Youth Commission, among other organizations, engaged the speakers and panelists in the open forum. Dr. Abdullah Dumama, Jr., a fellow of the first cohort of the Bridging Leadership Fellows Program (BLFP) and Department of Health (DOH) regional Director of Favao, suggested that hospitals may be an added source of data. This insight was warmly received by Dr. Lara, who cited that this can be another avenue for data validation which could increase the efficacy of information provided by the BCMS.
Markus Mayer, the Programme Manager of South & Southeast Asia International Alert, discussed the work of the organization and its commitment in peace-building in conflict-affected areas. He emphasized that the hard work begins in ensuring that the ongoing peace process does not collapse. Matthew Stephens, Senior Development Specialist from the World Bank, also addressed the audience, conveying gratitude for their participation in the forum. He explained that the World Bank supports the BCMS because they realize that as investments increase in the Bangsamoro, a system like this is necessary so that policy-makers and development organizations can ensure that the inflow of investments will not exacerbate conflict in the region. Maria Teresa Lopez, Vice President of TeaM Energy Foundation concluded the program and expressed optimism about the creation of the Bangsamoro. She also mentioned that data provided by the BCMS is an important input to key stakeholders who are serious about building an enabling environment that encourages sustainable investments in the Bangsamoro.
The forum was attended by approximately 100 participants from different corporations and organizations such as the Japanese and Malaysian Embassies, Phil-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program, the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Stock Exchange, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Rappler, Mindanao Grains, VSO International, the United Nations Development Programme and many more. The organizers hope that the lively discussion opens up the dialogue on the role of businesses as crucial to sustaining peace and development in the Bangsamoro and that the conversation continues beyond the forum.
For more information about the Business, Conflict and Wealth Creation in the Bangsamoro forum, please visit bit.ly/bcmsbangsamoro2014.