Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mindanao: a hard nut to crack

“Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano said yesterday the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is supposed to bring peace to violence-wracked Mindanao belongs in the waste basket.” [BBL: Cayetano aims for the waste basket, Mario Casayuran, Manila Bulletin, 15th Feb 2015]

I’ve watched the Senate Majority Leader on TV whenever we’re in town and he seems to make sense. But in politics as in love and war, all is fair; and so detractors have been throwing darts his way and his family's. For instance, that he belongs to a political dynasty with its own baggage? 

Emotions are still raw and it is understandable Senator Cayetano wants to toss the BBL although he says he’s for peace. It appears the MILF has a credibility issue and those outside the peace process believe they can’t represent Bangsamoro. And so after the MNLF and the MILF, where do we go? “There will always be many Mamasapanos remaining in profuse poverty when our national hierarchies continue to deny us the chance to prosper. We ask our leaders in the Government and the MILF to uphold the trust they share in the peace process.”— Junaid (FNU), Mamasapano resident, 07 February 2015. [National unity, morale, trust, leadership, strategic priorities (Last of two parts), Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, Manila Bulletin, 14th Feb 2015]

“Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign for federalism struck a high note among the people of Palawan, a province long embroiled in a dispute with the national government over its share of the controversial Malampaya Fund.” [Duterte: Federalism to stop Malampaya theft, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4th Feb 2015]

Mindanao is a hard nut to crack. It needs a Philippine president that will demonstrate a commitment to Mindanao. While that means accelerating economic development, Mindanao must have an overarching goal. And what will it take to get there? What infrastructure, what strategic industries and what science and technology and education initiatives must be in place? And the efforts must be monitored in a very high-profile manner because we are working to win the hearts and minds of the people.

It is more than allocating money or land like we saw with land reform. It’s about the ecosystem, the absence of which revealed our shortcomings in economic development and nation building – owing to the inability to connect the dots? Does it have to do with our crying need for visionary leadership? Or to forward-think? Does it have to do with “kanya-kanya” or self-centeredness? Try community sense and the common good . . .

But back to the peace process. Duterte . . . appealed to the country’s top political leaders to rise above the national outrage and anger over the Mamasapano (Maguindanao) incident.” [‘Rise above anger and work for peace,’ Manny Piñol and Catherine Valente, The Manila Times, 21st Feb 2015]

The Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the body that monitors the progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, highlighted the need to continue with the peace process especially after the tragedy in Mamasapano.” [Casayuran, op. cit.] “The recent tragic events at Mamasapano have underlined yet again the human costs of conflict, and the TPMT joins in expressing their condolences to the families of all the victims,” TPMT Chair Alistair MacDonald said during a press briefing held for the release of their second annual Public Report on February 13.

“But it will be essential to protect the future while providing just remedies for the past – and that future can only prosper in the context of a widespread and lasting peace. According to MacDonald, while public attention is focused on the tragedy, the substantial progress made in the peace process for 2014 must not be overlooked. He noted that the report they release should serve to remind the public of this progress.”

We need third parties involved because of our own credibility problem. Remember the Irish peace process? Perfection is not of this world yet we like to think in absolutes? Evil is always at hand to undermine the best of intentions. And evil has been around since Eden and even at the Last Supper. And in the case of Mindanao, do we want to truly know and learn how to live with our Muslim brothers?

But we worry about the Constitution? We have to invest in the “substance” lest the “form” won't suffice. Does Pinoy abilidad mean throwing one for the other? For example, we shared with a couple of local experts our discomfort with federalism not because we discount it per se but to suggest that we go through the thought process. What is the fundamental given? That a market must have critical mass and economies of scale in order to be viable. For example, Quebec or Scotland; and thus they chose to keep the status quo.

At the end of the day, the challenge is how to rigorously prioritize development initiatives (i.e., the substance) and it is something that we as a people have yet to learn whether we are federalized or not (i.e., the form)? And what about the risk of reinforcing our parochial bias? Which together with our hierarchical system and structure have held us back – and why we’re still in our dark ages?

I am writing this in Singapore after being driven practically all around this city-state (and was just in KL.) And shared with my Eastern European friends that 44 years ago, I stood over a barren land they called Jurong* and never imagined how rapidly they would turn into a First-World nation. And we discussed a thinking model to guide the enterprise going forward, i.e., with the view to “self-actualizing” the consumer. And that is what being competitive means in dynamic markets. [*The government saw industrialization as a solution to the country's economic problems and Jurong was picked as a prime area for development. Wikipedia]

But we Pinoys have our work cut out for us, our failure to rapidly pursue economic development. [See above re our inability to connect the dots.] And it's worth repeating the analogy: Let us imagine we’re going through layers while putting up the building blocks of the economy. And it starts with infrastructure. And once it’s extensive enough, we can overlay a set of vital strategic industries that will travel far and wide and drive PHL’s economic output several times more than currently. Industries need a platform. But then we must stretch our imagination by asking ourselves, how shall we sustain these efforts? And that means we need science and technology and education over the longer term.

“[Former President] Ramos recalled military action against rebel groups that burned down Ipil town in Zamboanga in April 1995 ahead of the signing of a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) . . . ‘The Ipil raid in April 1995, this was seen by us as an attempt, just like now, to destroy the peace agreement we were about to sign with the (MNLF),’ Ramos said.” [Aquino hemming and hawing—Ramos, Erika Sauler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15th Feb 2015]

There are no simple answers. And like the world is witnessing today (in Ukraine, Syria, Greece, etc.), we’re in a funk. But we better ask ourselves whether our worldview will put us in good stead in the here and now?

I'm speaking to Singaporeans and while they went through a rigorous screening process before we hired them, I don't see them any better than people I worked with over the 20 years I was in the Philippines. But how come Singapore is a First-World nation and we can't even feed half of our people? If we have a Muslim problem, these people principally are: Chinese (74%), Muslims (14%) and Indians (9%).

And in KL I was speaking to a group that was half Chinese and half Muslims. And as I recalled being driven around in both places (their infrastructure puts us Pinoys to shame), I was pleased with and congratulated them for the progress they've achieved in a short period of time. And as we discussed the challenge to move up to the next level, they asked questions and expressed the desire to learn more and do even better.

And these people represent nations with GDPs per capita so many times more than PHL. How do we respond? “Alam ko na ‘yan” . . . or . . . “Wala tayong magagawa”?

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