BAYABAO, Lanaodel Sur – The little children played under a tattered national flag that gaily fly in the wind, unmindful of the strangers that visited their school in Ragayan-Poona, a national high school that has a few school buildings in a row. They only have one happy thought in mind, and that is, school will again open very soon.

Meanwhile, a number of their parents and elderlies representing the different sectoral organizations in their community, including some members of women’s organization, the Local Government Units, cooperatives and people’s organizations sat in a hall where a team of development workers coming from Davao City exchange views with them.

Earlier on in the municipal hall of Parang, Maguindanao, the same team from the Succeed Solidarity for Global Peace, Ecology and Inclusive Economic Development, Inc. (SUCCEED Global) headed by Mr.JoselitoLibres, the Executive Director, also discussed a development project which their partner civil society organization, the TASBIKKA is implementing in Parang.

The room was filling up mid-afternoon with expectant faces that one hot summer day on May 19, as several representatives from all sectors in the municipality of Parang in Maguindanao gathered to discuss with visitors some potential economic development in their community. It was not a new sight, but seemingly for most of them, the information that this is something that will help them with their livelihood lifted the spirits and anticipation among those who attended.

The activity was an offshoot of the previous year’s case studies done by SUCCEED on the Economic Development Models in Conflict-affected areas in Muslim Mindanao, Philippines (INCLINED-M2P),which included the Local Government Unit of Parang as one of the recipient LGUs in Maguindanao Province under study. The other LGU that was given focus in a case study was the Municipality of Nuro (north) Upi, which is a 3rd class municipality also located in the province of Maguindanao.

The presence of Parang’s youthful Chief Executive officer, Mayor Ibrahim Ibay who have shown the kind of governance there is in this remote municipality that inspires the community to work together with the LGU have added flavour to the lively discussion. Known for his proactive and effective leadership, Mayor Ibay exemplified an ‘iron-grip’ on local governance in his municipality despite being situated in the midst of conflict-affected areas.

Not wanting of model LGUs

The case study written by Nielo Tingzon noted that Parang “is home to the Philippine government military and police headquarters, (which) puts it in the middle of armed conflict that had residents on their edge as fear of terror and feeling of uncertainty hover above and over them.”

Though it had not become “the arena of actual armed encounters between government and rebel forces, at least over the last two and a half decades, the town was not spared from the social and economic costs of war as it became host to close to 160,000 internally displaced families from Buldon, Barira and Matanog when the administration of President Estrada declared an all-out war against the MILF in 2000.”

Parang also serves as trading centre of neighbouring towns that bring their produce to the municipality’s local market, and this renders beneficial returns to Parang’s economy in times of peace, but on the other hand carries with it another dimension of conflict.”

It would seem however that the civil government of the town has managed to exist in such situation of fragile peace by working closely with its populace. Hence, seeing the warm reception that the people met SUCCEED with its project orientation in the town only shows the kind of confidence that local governance has built through the years in Parang.

Strengthening the LGU’s economic base

As a way of contributing to the positive developments already obtaining in Parang, the CSO endeavours to equip the economic sector in its efforts with some concepts on “Sustainable and Inclusive Local Economic Development in Conflict-Affected Areas in Muslim Mindanao” with specific objectives of laying the foundation for a strong and dynamic social economic sectors that play a significant role in small holder agriculture in the locality.

Moreover, Mr. Libres further emphasized among others, the importance of “increasing the role of the private sector (home-grown and outsiders) and raising its awareness on conflict-sensitivity and social responsiveness.

Likewise, among other insights gathered during the case studies include the need for more active local conflict resolution mechanisms (legal and traditional) and increased resolution of local conflicts including land disputes and other causes; the broader and meaningful participation of the people in governance processes, towards increased delivery of social services; the need for a significant contribution in the promotion of peace and development and advocacy on sustainable and inclusive economic development in Mindanao; the provision of technical assistance to INCLINED M2P partner case-owners; and, the generation of additional resources.

These concepts are all based on the theory of change arrived at in the case studies conducted by SUCCEED on Sustainable and Inclusive local economic development in Muslim Mindanao. The best practices and better insights gathered from various actors on the relationship of (inclusive) economic development and peace building in various conflict settings have somehow mobilized financial and non-financial resources for inclusive economic development in Muslim Mindanao.

With funding support from Cordaid of the Netherlands, the INCLINED-M2P research and advocacy efforts of SUCCEED was implemented and later presented in a Mindanao-wide summit attended by the different stakeholders in the promotion of peace in Mindanao sometime in December 2013, after these had been validated by the case holders that include among others some members of the private sector, the Cooperative movement, members of the Civil Society organizations in Mindanao, and the Local Government Units.

As an offshoot, the CSO later came up with a set of recommendations that it had submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) for consideration early in February as it was still in the process of crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Some time ago, the draft BBL has already been submitted to the Office of the President for consideration even as the Moro people are already welcoming the Bangsamoro government in the many areas.