Planning Mindanao’s future

Planning Mindanao’s future

By Cielito Habito
Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 10, 2010

SURELY one of the most prominent elements in the political platforms of candidates to national positions in the forthcoming May elections is defining the right strategy for dealing with the persistent peace and development challenge in Mindanao.

Few would dispute that Mindanao is most critical to the nation’s future and overall welfare.

Mindanao accounts for about a
1) third of the country’s land area, a
2) quarter of the country’s population and a
3) fifth of overall income, measured as gross domestic product or GDP.

The incongruence of those ratios already reflects an anomaly, especially in light of what must be a much greater share that Mindanao possesses of the country’s natural wealth. Mindanao, in other words, could easily account for a far greater share of the country’s production and incomes, had it not been for long-standing barriers to attaining lasting peace and development therein.

New Mindanao Road Map

It is in this light that the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco), in cooperation with the Mindanao regional offices of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), has spearheaded work to come up with a new 20-year blueprint for the future of Mindanao and its diverse peoples.

The previous blueprint known as Mindanao 2000 covers only up to 2010, hence the need for a sequel plan now dubbed as Mindanao 2020. Notwithstanding the name—chosen because of the catchy and suggestive nature of the number (as in 20/20 vision)—the new plan will cover the period up to 2030.

It is thus intended to guide the various strategies, policies and programs to be undertaken for Mindanao in the next two decades.

The great diversity found in Mindanao presents a daunting challenge for such a planning exercise.

There is wide variation within the island group in terms of natural and physical endowments and attributes, historical and cultural backgrounds, ethnic composition, and political perspectives.

It would thus appear to be wishful thinking to expect that a consensus could ever be reached on the elements of such a plan.

And yet, it is this very diversity that makes it all the more imperative that wide consensus be sought to the extent possible. Even then, one must not entertain the illusion that universal agreement will ever be reached, especially on particular elements of the blueprint that will emerge.

Planning by listening

Key to achieving wide consensus is to adopt a listening mode in the design of the planning process.

Thus, the team that has been put together for the work defines its task as “facilitating the formulation of Mindanao 2020,” rather than formulating the plan itself.

Medco rightly sees Mindanao 2020 as a plan that must be crafted by the wide mass of Mindanawons, not by a small group of experts “playing God” for Mindanao.

Indeed, Mindanawons ranging from ordinary citizens to erudite scholars have long known what needs to be done to “fix” Mindanao.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel here; the content of Mindanao 2020 is largely in place.

It is the process for achieving a widely owned and supported plan that is seen to be the greater challenge.

Knowing it is impossible to hear every single Mindanawon out nor gather every single perspective, the Mindanao 2020 team has embarked on a planning process that seeks to maximize ownership for the plan. Three primary instruments are being employed to this end: A quick survey (QS), focus group discussions (FGDs) across Mindanao, and key informant interviews (KIIs) with prominent personalities who are knowledgeable of and/or influential in Mindanao.

Recommendations from past analyses, consultations and discussions are also being gathered from the literature.

The QS asks two simple questions on Mindanao’s future, and is being disseminated via e-mail, Internet and even text messaging.

The FGDs seek participants who can legitimately speak for much wider constituencies.

The results of more than 300 FGDs undertaken by Konsult Mindanaw headed by Fr. Bert Alejo (who is a member of the Mindanao 2020 team as well) are also now part of the Mindanao 2020 formulation. Meanwhile, KIIs are being done with personalities representing widely divergent perspectives.

Desired Mindanao

After hearing hundreds of Mindanawons in the consultations (which are still ongoing), key words that have emerged for a shared vision of Mindanao are “peace,” “progress” and “prosperity.”

A Mindanao where there is “no fear” is a popular way to describe the desired peace.

Mindanawons also want governance that is culture-sensitive, self-reliant and responsive. They want an economy that is financially self-reliant, physically connected and economically integrated, equitably uplifting the lives of all Mindanawons.

They also envisage the people of Mindanao as enjoying abundant opportunities to develop their human capabilities as individuals and as communities, marked by trust and solidarity within groups, among diverse cultures, and across different regions.

How to get there? Space constraints prevent me from describing, even in general terms, the wealth of good ideas already offered so far by Mindanawons from various walks of life.

Work continues in shaping Mindanao 2020, and will be completed only when the new leadership is in place after the elections.

After all, as critical as the buy-in of Mindanawons themselves is the buy-in of our new leaders coming in 2010.

(Readers’ inputs to Mindanao 2020 are welcome at

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