CAGAYAN de Oro Journal (Ryan Rosauro / Sept 26) - Leaders of 10 non-government organizations and representatives of government agencies gather on Friday to discuss major policy issues that are "significantly affecting peace and development endeavors" in communities across Mindanao.
The policy issues were identified in a series of studies undertaken by the 10 NGOs grouped as the Mindanao ICCO Partners. ICCO or the Inter-Church Development Organization is a Dutch international development institution.
According to Mary Luz Feranil, executive director of the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM) and convenor of the Mindanao ICCO Partners, the identified policy issues fall under the broad areas of land rights, governance, and models and strategies for grassroots economic development.
The studies analyzed the policies that have bearing on each of the broad areas, examined how these were able to enhance and/or hinder efforts towards peace and development in specific communities.
Feranil emphasized that "sustainable community development is the bedrock of lasting peace in Mindanao, and even throughout the country."
That is why the findings of the studies are very helpful in rethinking existing policies with the view of enhancing the environment for community development in Mindanao, she added.
Feranil pointed to the need for harnessing unities among various peace and development stakeholders to push for specific policy reforms and develop broader people's participation in policy processes.
Highly relevant in the ongoing public discussions are the reviews on the implementation of the 10-year old Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and on undertaking agrarian reform in commercial plantations in southern Mindanao, Feranil said.
IPRA has been under intense public scrutiny lately amid intensifying demands from indigenous communities for concrete results of the law's relevance to their development struggle. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), too, has been the subject of continuing debate especially on the question of its fate beyond 2008 with the expiry of its enabling law.
The study on land rights examines the varied issues arising from conflicts over ownership, possession and control of land as experienced by varying socio-cultural groupings of peoples. It was subdivided into the specific experiences of indigenous peoples, Bangsamoro, and settler communities as each have distinct policy environments.
The study on governance delved into the situations of select communities in Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte and Lanao del Sur provinces. It tried to examine the challenges posed by the distinctive socio-cultural contexts of indigenous peoples, Moro and settler communities in carrying out local political administration.
The study on economic models and strategies looked at grassroots initiatives for development in southern Mindanao and presents the limitations imposed by existing policies that effectively serve as obstacles to the undertaking.
Representatives from government agencies are expected to give their responses and comments on the specific policy papers that will be presented during the forum.
Among those slated to attend are executives from the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process, Mindanao Economic Development Council, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Economic and Development Authority, Departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Trade and Industry. Several personalities from the academic community were also invited to attend.
The policy forum will be held on September 28 at the Grand Menseng Hotel, Davao City, and runs from 9am to 1pm.
The Mindanao ICCO Partners include Alterdev Services Foundation Inc., Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, BALAOD Mindanaw, Kalimudan Foundation Inc., Kasanyangan Foundation Inc., Mindanao Farmers Development Center, Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes, Tri-People Concern for Peace, Progress and Development, Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation Inc., and Centro Saka Inc.