The Philippines, a developing country, is striving for progress in the international economy. However, a specific region within the country faces challenges in economic stability and peace. On December 1, 2010, the University of the Philippines Auditorium hosted a symposium called “Mindanao and the Bangsamoro: Prospects for Peace”. The symposium was organized by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) with an aim to raise awareness about the ongoing armed conflict in Mindanao, its impact on the region’s economy, and the continuous effort to promote peace.
It is undeniable that the conflicts have led to a decline in multiple areas for the region, highlighting the importance of striving for peace to guarantee growth and advancement. According to the CBCS (2010) report, the armed conflict in Mindanao has endured for three decades, making it the longest-running rebellion in South East Asia. As a result, this has caused economic marginalization and poverty within the region. The continuous dispute has had a substantial impact on human casualties, with approximately 120,000 lives lost during the past 30 years of conflict in Mindanao.
As a result of armed conflict, individuals in the area are compelled to leave their homes and seek shelter in evacuation centers. The conditions in these centers disrupt daily life and productivity, making it challenging for people to meet their basic needs. Limited access to food and healthcare has led to illness among many, especially infants and older adults. It is crucial to acknowledge that over the years, numerous Muslims have been forced to move to different cities and provinces, often outside of the Mindanao region (CBSC, 2010).
High poverty rates are a consequence of armed conflicts, especially in regions like ARMM in Mindanao (CBSC, 2010). Economic decline is attributed to factors like infrastructure destruction, capital flight, and brain drain. The ongoing conflicts between the MILF and the government have led to significant infrastructure damage. Consequently, a large portion of the government’s budget is required for repairs.
Capital flight is the result of an economic event that disrupts investors and causes them to devalue assets or lose confidence in a country’s economic stability (Wikipedia, 2010). The region’s lack of peace has clearly discouraged both investors and tourists. Although brain drain affects the entire country, higher levels of poverty and armistice problems in Mindanao have motivated more individuals from this region to migrate abroad in search of better opportunities.
Peace is essential for the prosperity of social, economic, and human development. Armed disputes always incur significant costs. Historical events like World War I, World War II, and the Philippine regime during Martial Law clearly demonstrate the destructive consequences on a country’s economy when conflicts are settled through violence. By resolving armed conflicts, poverty can be significantly reduced, and political, social, and economic obstacles can be successfully addressed.
The need to address education issues arises from the region’s low literacy rate. Improving the population’s education level enhances their skills in the job market, thus decreasing unemployment rates. Consequently, this can potentially reduce child labor occurrences. Additionally, a peaceful region has the potential to attract investors and tourists, resulting in greater financial resources. However, it is important to recognize that resolving the ongoing issue between the MILF and the government cannot be accomplished immediately.
The CBSC (2010) asserts the importance of resolving socio-economic issues in conflict areas to prevent them from fueling further conflicts. It also highlights the need for a delicate balance between development, ongoing peace efforts, and a comprehensive political agreement in Mindanao to ensure human security is achieved.
To expedite economic progress, peace is indispensable. Nevertheless, resolving this matter requires the participation and mutual consensus of both parties. Although it may seem improbable at present, there is optimism that the pursuit of equality, fairness in development, and justice will hasten its resolution. This outcome will not only benefit the Mindanao region but also the entire country.