COTABATO CITY, September 14, 2015 – World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific Axel van Trotsenburg said the institution is committed to provide continuing support to the Mindanao peace process by financing critical projects in infrastructure, community-driven development, and social services to support job creation.
Van Trotsenburg visited the city with officials from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm, to meet with leaders of civil society groups, including women’s organizations and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to hear about the aspirations of a people who have suffered from decades of conflict and underdevelopment.
He said the Bank can contribute to areas where affected communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao hope for positive change in terms of improvement in maternal health, education, and infrastructure. These efforts, he said, will generate employment and provide opportunities to escape poverty.
“The Bank continues to believe in the peace process for a region that was seriously affected by conflict,” van Trotsenburg said. “We look forward to working with all parties – the government, the MILF, the private sector, local communities and development partners – in transforming the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao into a region of prosperity and successful poverty reduction.”
During his visit, van Trotsenburg, along with executives of some of the country’s top companies, including the Ayala Corporation chaired by Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Meralco, PLDT, and First Agri Holdings Corp., met with the leadership of the MILF in Camp Darapanan. The event, co-organized by the Philippine Business for Social Progress, was aimed at exploring investment opportunities in the region. Van Trotsenburg reiterated how the World Bank and the IFC are eager to work closely with the private sector to facilitate investments that create new job opportunities for the conflict-affected population.
In particular, he pointed out the need for quick-impact programs that will address the immediate needs of communities as raised by MILF Chair Al Haj Murad. Murad underscored the importance of the involvement of the private sector in helping realize the aspirations of the people of Mindanao for just and lasting peace, which in turn will benefit the entire country.
The visit to Cotabato marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Mindanao Trust Fund, which has supported economic and social recovery, as well as effective governance, in southern Philippines. More than half a million people in 214 war-torn communities from 75 municipalities have benefited from the trust fund, which has helped finance the construction of new roads, classrooms, health clinics and community centers and improved access to electricity and water supply.
In addition, the multi-donor trust fund has helped build the capacity of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It transformed the volunteer-led agency with little development experience to one with 300 staff in seven regional offices. The agency recently prepared a comprehensive development plan for the Bangsamoro region.
Van Trotsenburg said the World Bank is also conducting a study to provide recommendations on how to boost employment in southern Philippines, particularly in conflict-affected areas. The study, called the Mindanao Jobs Report, will summarize existing analytical work and undertake research on job creation in the area. The report will be released in July 2016.
“The peace process is really all about people, including children who have lost parents to conflict, families suffering from poverty, unemployed young people lured into armed groups and lives of violence,” said van Trotsenburg. “Building peace takes time, especially where poverty and conflict have become prevalent. We hope all parties stay the course in Mindanao, because there is no alternative to peace.”