Breaking the links between economics and conflict in Mindanao

This report sheds analytical light on the complex linkages between economic factors and the conflict in Mindanao, and on the possible role of local business leaders and their associates in communities or other sectors in the country in breaking these links. It also explores options for government in addressing these dynamics.

Mindana osymbolises resistance. Generations of Moro peoples have resisted colonial conquest, assimilation by central government, and declarations of all-out war for over four centuries. Their quest for self-determination and their aspiration to establish a Bangsamoro nation has taken different forms of struggle.

The peoples of Mindanao symbolise resilience. In times of war or peace, the people of the southern islands of the Philippines including Moro peoples, the lumads (indigenous peoples) and the Christian settlers in the lowland areas have managed to survive and to thrive – at times, together, and, at other times, separately. The island of promise more often than not has seen the expectations of its inhabitants frustrated either by the failure of development efforts, by poor governance or neglect, or by successive military operations.

In this light, the people’s pursuit of peace in Mindanao, with support from friends, represents a compelling response to what indeed is a complex reality. Citizens of Mindanao have raised and continue to advocate just and durable responses to the unresolved issues which cry for imperative action: the question of ancestral domain and agrarian reform; the plight of thousands of war victims comprised of displaced and landless families who have witnessed the destruction of their properties or experienced human right violations; the relationship characterised by social and cultural discrimination that still exists between people of different historical or religious traditions; the widespread poverty, characterised by deep inequalities, in the regions inhabited by predominantly Muslim populations; the exploitation of natural resources that somehow constitute what has been described as ‘development aggression’; and finally, the desire to design a way of life and a system of governance compatible with the values of the tri-peoples (the Muslims, the lumads, and the Christian settlers) in the land they commonly inhabit.

This report seeks to promote a role for local business leaders alongside other civil society constituencies in pushing for peace. It aims to make a modest contribution to the pursuit of a peace that has long eluded the people of southern Philippines, through making recommendations to both business and government on the economic dimension of the conflict, and future roles and opportunities in this area.