Promoting peace in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Philippines

(Jun Papelleras) #1

Hi! Just to share with you my views to the never ending conflict in this part of the Philippines. This conflict has never been about Faith or Religion. It is really about poverty, injustice and underdevelopment. While much of the prolonged socio-political-military unrest has been generally attributed to the Muslim secessionist movement and to religious differences between the Muslim and non-Muslim residents, it appears that resolving the political-military problems there is an incomplete solution to attaining stability in the region, unless widespread poverty and its concomitant effect of the poor quality of education is also effectively addressed.
This region is considered as one of the most impoverished regions in the Philippines. Poverty incidence is at 63%, almost twice the national average of 34%, and the region depends heavily on the national government for its operations revenue (almost 98%). Based on World Bank data, the region ranks lowest among Philippine regions in terms of average household income, life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, net enrollments in the primary and secondary levels. This state of underdevelopment is also reflected in the region’s education: low scores in national standardized achievement tests, overall performance in basic, secondary and tertiary education falls below national levels, and poor achievements in key educational indicators such as functional literacy, scoring in National Achievement Tests, dropout and cohort survival rates.
What businesses can do particularly those operating in this region is to support programs to improve quality of education and provide the necessary skills to Muslim residents so they can work professionally in corporations hand in hand with their Christian brothers and sisters. Proper education has been proven to be the most effective tool in fighting poverty.


(jessica romo) #2

I do agree with you that education is essential when fighting poverty but coming from Mexico I can tell you that it does not solve the problem. Our government has been heavily investing in education for decades now and we are increasing the numbers of young people who actually graduate from university. The problem is that after graduating there are no jobs in your area, which leads to lots of disappointments and frustration after completing a long time of studies.

One of the main mistakes made is believing that formal education is key, in fact, in places where poverty is endemic, vocational or non-formal education work best. Teaching simple but practical skills to locals has worked better in many places around the world.

On top of that, we cannot forget that conflict does not have a blueprint, it changes thanks to different structures that underpin it or help it emerge. Sometimes is religion, sometimes is political unrest, sometimes is poverty, sometimes is just a lack of community sense and most of the times is because we do not know


(Solomon Brayant Mpapale) #3

Dear Jun,

I have been following the problem of your country for sometimes now from here in London.I know that the Islamic insurgency fuelled by the Abu Sayyaf Guerillas and the MILF has its roots in poverty and feelings of marginalization and lack of opportunity.It is also a security problem and according to some unverified claims, it has some connection with International terrorist gruops in South Asia.

Be that as it may, the situation in Mindanao is intolerable and untenable and the government in Manilla ought to act to forstall further demands for seccession.It is worrying when we constantly read of hostages being kidnapped and large ransoms demanded which actually proves the link between the insurgency and poverty.

What is needed is a policy of inclusion through affirmative action policies.There also ought to be a better way to intergrate the largely Catholic country with Muslim minoroties and more investments in the area.Granting some sort of autonomy may not be the answer as yet as that could fragment the country further.

Although some of the groups are listed as terrorist, i think it is not too late to talk to them and address their demands.



(Catalin- Ann N. Tisoy) #4

HI Jun,

Proper Education is a key to have a lasting peace in that part of Mindanao, but when we say proper education, i think it should be on a wholistic approach, and the family plays a vital part since it is the seedbed of our education. A person’s character or behavior is basically formed from the community where he grows up with, so it is very important to talk to them and I agree with Mr. Solomon that it’s never too late to talk and get to know them well so that we would be able to understand why there demands and behavior are like that… In terms of our college education here in the Philippines , I think we are at par with the rest, the problem is that majority of us always go for a higher education ( i mean a 4 yr degree course ) in order to land a “good job” per see, but I have seen a lot of degree holders who end up working in a hotel to do housekeeping works, and this is what I am telling to some hotel executives who are friends of mine that they dont need a degree, just to know the science of cleaning and fixing a hotel room, AND SOME OTHER BACKDOOR OPERATIONS IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY. I am also an advocate of a dualtech study programs which TESDA is spearheading, in fact i teach entrepreneurship in one of those TESDA registered schools here in Cebu, infact our students are the most prefferred choice of our industry partners- 99.5% of our graduates are readily employed right after graduation. Since Mindanao has a very big potential in the agriculture industry due to its rich resources, perhaps setting up a farm school in that area would be a big help. DOLE and DEL MONTE have huge plantation in Mindanao, perhaps setting up a farm school in the area can be a part of there CSR. Our school is run and managed by a foundation of which I am also a volunteer and we also run a farm school in Batangas. Poverty incidence are always higher than the usual since the area is always like a war zone, so it’s understandable- people are always displaced, and on the run. This kind of scenario is not only happening in the Philippines, there are also other countries who suffers the same and perhaps they suffer more. Lastly I dont think religion is a big issue with our problem in Mindanao. We can call on our muslim brothers who successfully had the access of good education and who have already attained some professional and economic success in there chosen field to go back to Mindanao and share, impart there knowledge and invest to there native land after all they are the only one’s who could easily understand there brothers since they are one in language and in faith.


(Jun Papelleras) #5

Dear All:

I fully agree with all your comments. Let me give you a brief background of the Muslim situation in Mindanao. I grew up in Davao, southeast Mindanao, and I know how Muslims were treated by non-Muslims in the 50s and 60s. Just like in some parts of the US during this period the blacks were considered inferior by the whites. When a few Muslims began to earn good professional prestige in the mid-60s after graduating from the country’s leading universities in Manila, the complexion began to change. But then insurgency was already widespread in the south and Marcos took the challenge head-on by sending prison convicts dressed as soldiers. They committed abuses and wrecked havoc among the local population and worsened the situation. The educated Muslims had no choice but to fight in two fronts, politically against Marcos in Manila and militarily against abuses by pseudo-soldiers in the south. After Marcos, the situation improved for a while but the new military turned it into a business venture that for as long as their is a battle to be fought cash is made available free from accounting and audit. Then well funded international terrorist organizations got into the fray by providing arms and funds to the other side and escalated the conflict. When funds became tight because of international sanctions they resorted to kidnapping. This is where we are right now. I hope you understand why military intervention in this country is not a solution. Now talking about education when I say proper education I do not necessarily mean college education for all. In this country much like in Mexico we turn out college graduates by the hundreds of thousands most of whom only join the ranks of the unemployed not because there are no jobs available but because the demands are for skills not provided by universities and colleges. I guess we can attribute this to history. More than three hundred years under Spain ruled out of Mexico had somehow robbed off in Philippine culture.
At present in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, people in education governance do not feel empowered and adequate. Quality of basic education suffers compared to other regions of the country. Surely education is not the magic wand for peace in the region. But it is as a long term solution along with other socio-economic and political interventions. Good education and/or skills somehow gives a person his/her dignity worthy of respect regardless of religion or social standing.