Posted by: luvin | February 15, 2009

Mindanao; A Way Forward

Mindanao; A Way Forward, is the title of the recent dialogue held in Marco Polo in Davao City.  It aims to dicuss and find solution to the age old conflict in Mindanao. Three lead questions guided the panelist and all participants; 1. where do we go from here, (or what is the way forward) regarding the stalled peace talks with the MILF. 2. What lessons have we learned from the past experiences, 3. What new insights have we gained that we can apply in the future.

The discussion was indeed insightful, with the four groups (the National Government, the Moro group, the Local leadership,  the Media and the academe or we may say the civil society group) clearly elaborated their points. One interesting point that Dean Antonio Lavina raised was that Mindanao is a very big region, and the absence of representative from the Lumad group is noticeable. It is reflective of how this problem is being treated, take for example the title. It’s about Mindanao, but the conflict is only isolated. Most of Mindanao is not affected by the conflict, that it is not right to label it that way as if relaying a message that the whole island is affected by the war. The organizers could have labelled it; Philippines, A Way Forward.

In the discussion, some underlying assumption were uncovered. 1. In an environment of war, economic  progress is not possible. Fermin Adriano  discussed it lengthily and clearly. Indeed, some example of the localities affected by the conflict but where economic enterprises is robust are Sarangani Province, Cotabato Province, the Cities of Iligan and Zamboanga, etc.   2. The right for self-determination is a prerequisite to economic progress. Or in the same tune, that this is a political crisis thus a political solution is needed.  Well it has become obvious that the previous attempt tried to categorized it that way, and the logic followed that if a political solution cannot be dicovered then Mindanao is doomed. For the last 4 decades, Mindanao has toiled under the cloud of smoking guns and exploding bombs, but slowly it is now emerging. The national government and the whole nation now listens to its cry. It is now easy to argue that Mindanao is more economically vibrant than Visayas.    3. There is an unbrigeable divide between the muslims and the non-muslims. This is of course a mere propaganda line as the MILF would like us to believe. Visit Luwaran and see how they tried to sell that fallacy.  Visit the many muslim dominated towns to see if integration is not possible. Visit the towns of Pikit, Wao, etc.

There are other real issues that were brought forward. 1. Land Ownership. This is indeed the fight of the ordinay moros. Many do not have land, not only because their lands have been forcibly taken by the illongos, but historically, because most of their lands are under the control of their Datus or Sultans. This chance to own land has encourage them to fight. And the settlers who already valued lands, are fighting to keep their property.   2. The stuggle for self determination is a real issue, although it is an issue that affects more the spirit of the leaders more than the ordinary people.    3. Economic development, or the lack of it, has been the failure that attracts criticism towards the moro leadership. No matter how hard they try to parry the blame, by throwing the blame to the national government’s failure to give them real autonomy, it is very clear that that debacle is big black eye to the moro struggle. The ordinay Abdul, Mohamad, Rohayda…needs to eat, go to school, needs to buy cellphones etc, etc.   4. The complaint of the local government is also real. That there is inadequate consultation, and that there is not enough representation for them in the negotiating table. Indeed.

Overall, this dialogue is a step forward, and I am hoping that more of similar discussion should happen this year. Should the convenor be able to increase the occurence of exchanges like this, I am hopefull the this administration will salvage this effort towards the attainment of doable solution for this problem.

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