Business, conflict and wealth creation in the Bangsamoro

“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,” emphasises Manuel De Vera, Executive Director of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership (pictured below).

Manuel De Vera, Executive Director of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership
Manuel De Vera, Executive Director of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership gives a speech. © Rigel Pelobello

On 25 November 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 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (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 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 organisers recognise that supporting strategies must be put into action so that the peace created through the BBL is sustained. Early indications 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.

Photo of Pancho Lara
© Rigel Pelobello

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. (pictured above) and Nikki de la Rosa (pictured below), 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 peacebuilding approaches. (Read Nikki de la Rosa’s presentation here).

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 16 November 2014. Abasolo took the forum’s guests through the ‘Magnificent 7’ – his take on the seven major reasons we should watch out for the Bangsamoro as an economically viable region. (Read Ever Abasolo’s presentation here).

A panel of reactors composed of Datu Mohammad Omar Pasigan, Al Hadj, the President of the Bangsamoro Business 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, noting 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 organisations, 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 and Southeast Asia at International Alert, discussed the work of the organisation and its commitment in peacebuilding in conflict-affected areas. He emphasised 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 realise that as investments increase in the Bangsamoro, a system like this is necessary so that policy-makers and development organisations 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 programme 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.

Photo of Nikki de la Rosa
© Rigel Pelobello

The forum was attended by approximately 100 participants from different corporations and organisations 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 of Australia, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Rappler, Mindanao Grains, VSO International, the United Nations Development Programme and many more.

The organisers hope that the lively discussion opens up dialogue on the role of businesses as crucial to sustaining peace and development in the Bangsamoro and that the conversation continues beyond the forum.

Find out more about the event.