Conflict-affected communities in Mindanao are among the poorest in the Philippines, suffering from poor infrastructure and lack of basic services (including education and health), weak local governance, and minimal private sector investment. The main cause of underdevelopment has been insecurity. Frequent armed clashes, driven by multiple and inter-related forms of conflict—insurgent groups, clan disputes, and quasi-ideological criminal banditry—have created severe economic dislocation and displacement of people. Armed conflict and poverty are inextricably linked. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), one of the most heavily conflict-affected regions, has poverty incidence of 52.9 percent, almost double the national average. Based on the peace deal with the Philippine government in 2012, the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is expected to transition into a social and political movement. One of the key challenges for a successful transition is to help the MILF to build skills within its ranks on development planning, budgeting and public administration.
The MTF works to enhance access to services and economic opportunities and build social cohesion while enhancing the capacity of local institutions in conflict-affected areas. It supports the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the MILF. Based on a 2001 agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF, the BDA is tasked to determine, lead, and manage relief, rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict-affected areas.
The program helps the BDA to deliver community development and income-generating subprojects in communities. This enhances access to basic services such as clean water, access roads, farming equipment and community centers. BDA also works to strengthen community enterprises for employment and income-generation. The community-based approach brings people from different groups – Muslims, Christians and indigenous peoples – together for the common good, building social cohesion and trust. Over time the program has expanded beyond community development to assist the BDA to gain skills in development planning.
As of September 2016:
· Half a million people (51% of whom are women) in 225 villages have benefitted from 379 completed subprojects [financed by the MTF]. The sub-projects have included water systems, community centers, sanitation facilities, access roads, post-harvest facilities, farming and fishing equipment. Eighty-six percent of the beneficiaries say that the project reflected their needs.
· The subprojects have reduced travel time to market, increased agricultural productivity, reduced post-harvest costs and increased access to basic services such as clean water. Beneficiaries of income-generating subprojects report increased incomes of 10-20%.
· The economic rate of return for subprojects ranges between 3% and over 300%.
· 42 community enterprises in 11 villages have been trained in business development to generate sustainable employment and income.
· Financial and technical assistance for the Project Management Team of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the joint government-MILF “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” program helped to deliver health, education and livelihood benefits to 50,000 people, including health insurance, study grants, technical training fellowships and support for schools and health clinics.
· The Bangsamoro Development Agency has evolved from a small group of volunteers with no development experience to a leading development agency in Mindanao, with 300 staff across seven regional management offices. BDA now cooperates with multiple national and international partners, including JICA, WFP and UNICEF.
· Bangsamoro Development Plan: the MTF provided technical assistance to help the BDA formulate the first comprehensive economic development blueprint prepared by a non-state armed group.