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Speeches & Transcripts April 6, 2018

Mindanao Today, Mindanao Tomorrow: Unlocking Mindanao’s Potential Opening Remarks

Honorable Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management;

Honorable Secretary Abul Khayer Alonto of the Mindanao Development Authority;

Honorable Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment;

Mr. Miguel Dominguez, Chair of the Philippine Business for Social Progress;

Honorable governors and mayors of Mindanao;

Leaders of the business sector;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Maayong hapon! [Good afternoon!]

I am honored to be in the presence of many distinguished officials, guests and friends who all have a stake in Mindanao. As we know, Mindanao is a large region, with an area of more than 97 thousand square kilometers and home to around 24 million people of diverse ethnicities and faiths. We are all gathered here today because we all share the same passion for Mindanao and its future.  

I have come to Mindanao many times.  I have visited prosperous cities as well as struggling towns.  I have been to places where security is stable as well as places where peace is a major challenge.

As I traveled, Filipinos have explained to me the Philippines’ sharp regional contrasts, which are quite obvious in Mindanao.

Let me cite an example: The Philippines is a middle-income country, with $2,953 GDP per capita and a vibrant economy. In Mindanao, however, the GDP per capita is $1,800 while in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the GDP per capita is only $576.

Such regional disparities are further reinforced by the human development indicators in Mindanao with the greatest challenge in ARMM. More than half of ARMM’s population is poor. More than half of its employed population are in agriculture with 80 percent of them working as subsistence farmers, living precariously from crop to crop.

Challenged by this paradox, the World Bank started working with MinDA and other government agencies, stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, people’s organizations, development partners, and experts from the academe to develop a strategy for for the whole region of Mindanao, that would help lift development in the entire region, while paying special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable areas.  

The result of this collaboration is the report we are launching today: Philippines Mindanao Jobs Report: A Strategy of Mindanao Regional Development.

This study has gone through a very extensive consultation process. Everyone we spoke to had the same message: the challenge for Mindanao is how to speed up inclusive growth or growth that creates more and better jobs, reduces poverty, and helps strengthen the prospects for peace.

Reflecting the collective knowledge and wisdom of Mindanao’s leaders and stakeholders, and supported by analysis conducted by the World Bank, the report came up with recommendations around three major development areas, namely:

  • Raising the productivity of Mindanao’s agriculture and fisheries sector and improving connectivity to markets;
  • Boosting human capital and social protection for the poor; and
  • Addressing the drivers of conflict and strengthening institutions in conflict-affected areas.

Many of the ideas in the report are not new to most of us. Many of the recommendations are either under various stages of implementation or in the pipeline of projects prepared by MinDA, other agencies of the government, and local government units.

The World Bank and other development partners have been supporting a number of these projects. Many of them are in infrastructure, education, health, social protection, community-driven development, and rural development.

However, what the report tries to achieve is reinforcement of the idea that no single project, program or reform can solve Mindanao’s challenges. It is only through recognizing the interconnectedness of the constraints and their solutions, and by planning and implementing programs and reforms in a more focused and coordinated way that our country can unlock Mindanao’s potential.

I will not dwell on the details of the report. We will have more time to discuss them later.

What I would like to highlight is this: In the long-run, progress in the entire country depends on growth and development in Mindanao.

Mindanao holds about one-fourth of the country’s population and one-third of the total number of poor Filipinos, therefore, significantly reducing national poverty hinges on reducing poverty in Mindanao. Ensuring Mindanao’s prosperity benefits the entire country.

If we all work together -- the government, the private sector, civil society, and development partners – Mindanao’s potential today can be unlocked for a more vibrant Mindanao tomorrow where Filipinos will have a better chance to have a better life.

On the part of the World Bank Group, our partnership strategy for the Philippines now focuses on scaling up support for peace-building and development in Mindanao.

We are supporting the government’s program to raise agricultural productivity and improve connectivity from farm to market; boost education, skills, and employability of the youth; and help build resilient communities.

Before I end, please allow me to thank the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Korean Trust Fund for all their support to this endeavor.

Thank you very much and may we all have a very fruitful discussion today.

Daghang Salamat! [Thank you very much!]