The European Union and the World Food Program have just formalized an agreement that reaffirms the bloc’s commitment to support the peace process in southern Philippines.
Under the agreement, the European Union will provide a €5.9 million ($7.7 million) grant over two years to support livelihood development and sustainable resettlement of people in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, Philippines. The grant will fund the “Enhancing the Resilience of Internally Displaced Persons in Central Mindanao by Strengthening Livelihoods” project, which will be implemented by WFP in collaboration with several Philippine government agencies.
The project will support activities such as cash- and food-for-work initiatives, farmers, fishermen and agriculture cooperatives in the region. It will also promote watershed management, agroforestry, watershed management and mangrove replantation.
Filipinos in the country and abroad should be in a celebratory mood – a fiesta. The fact that a consensus has been reached by both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine Government after so many years of in-fighting and refusal to cooperate is a feat. The agreement should be more than the statements though and that each Party should stay true to the Framework and make real peace and recognition of the Bangsamoro people the true aim. Filipino Muslims who have left Mindanao beginning in the late 90s who now want to return to their land and home communities can do so and make up for their lost futures there (much much better than the sub-standard and itinerant lifestyle they lead in the various towns they have taken refuge in). In Baguio City alone, there are many of them and I believe that since their arrival they were not really integrated into the City and are in social aspects refugees here (mostly because also of City Hall’s lack of program and action for internally-displaced persons seeking refuge in the City). I think that to be here and not really here is the worst psychological torture one can experience. Every human being needs to belong. Every displaced person seeks to return home.
Attendant to this sunshiny event, others – such as donor communities – are themselves buoyed up to help develop the place and the people. But then there are significant lessons learned from such undertaking – development – particularly in the context of aid. Foremost is the tension between the development perspectives between locals and external groups. The challenge for external groups is to always ask themselves, whose development am I planning this undertaking for?
I’m a Filipino who has delivered ‘development’ to other Filipinos (and their communities). Though I’m of generally the same culture and aspirations and share a similar level of exposure to national goings-on, there is no easy answer to the question – I can’t say I know exactly what my fellow Filipinos want for their communities, their future. Despite the rhetoric on empowerment, the real world is one of negotiated realities – both sides reveal what they want and negotiate for the “best” terms that is acceptable by both sides, which means there is compromise. Empowerment in the real world is that of no side – particularly those with lesser power – is made to compromise too much that it’s marginalized in the process. Otherwise, the tenet of the Framework would have been lost.