Last May 18, the second Mindanao Development Forum was hosted by the Mindanao Development Authority at a large venue in Davao City.
The one-day event was graced by a host of stakeholders, including high-level national government officials, government agency representatives, international donors, and the private sector which included chambers of commerce advocacy organizations and civil society groups. Some ambassadors and representatives of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)also attended. The first forum was held in 2013. Much has changed and grown on the island and its economy since then.
In today’s column, I would like to share my thoughts and a few challenges I see as a private-sector participant in that important event.
First of all, it is clear that Mindanao’s economic growth has been impressive over the last 10 years. In last week’s column, I focused on the 2022 growth. (https://mb.com.ph/2023/5/14/mindanao-s-impressive-2022-growth). The challenge is finding ways to make this growth more inclusive and resilient by developing more areas that are far from the cities. This will be a chance to create more income opportunities for Mindanao’s people.
Secondly, Mindanao is our food basket, producing almost 40 percent of our country’s food. Two-thirds of its economy comes from harnessing, financing, transporting, and processing these commodities. Developing more industries that utilize these commodities and turn them into other products that can be consumed by locals or exported to foreign buyers will thicken the value chain. This creates more stable regular employment and opportunities for more people beyond the farms and production areas.
Third, Mindanao has a surplus of electricity and is no longer beset by brownouts. The challenge is developing more indigenous and renewable sources to make the island less dependent on imported and expensive fossil fuels. This can be done by harnessing locally available means of generating electricity such as solar, wind, and biomass sources. This will help lower the cost of energy.
Fourth, the island has made meaningful gains in peace and development. The long-term challenge is sustaining this peace by boosting local economic opportunities and celebrating the island’s cultural diversity, creativity, and harmony among its people.
Fifth, Mindanao’s cities are beginning to rise, and its urban sprawl is becoming even wider. This reality makes it attractive to investors who seek ready locations for their businesses. The challenge is managing vehicular traffic by establishing sustainable mass transit systems and helping keep mobility and transport costs low for citizens.
Sixth, Mindanao’s tourist spots are getting noticed. Social media has given many of these beautiful areas a platform that has aroused the interest of many visitors. It is now time to increase access to them and spur local economic growth. Moreover, we must ensure that such spots are sustainably managed to minimize negative social and environmental impacts and enhance the positive benefits.
The recent gains in peace and development reveal Mindanao’s potential. The thoughts, challenges, and opportunities in previous paragraphs are guideposts for further growth. Unlocking these potentials will boost growth and opportunity further for the coming generations. This is Mindanao’s new message to the world.
That said, I look forward to the next Mindanao Development Forum. I hope it happens every year so that we can track the progress of the various projects and monitor the implementation of reforms meant to further fulfill the long-held promise of this wonderful island.