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Wednesday, 22 May 2024 01:10

Battlefield communities emerge as grounds for peace and development in Bangsamoro Region

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(IN PHOTO: Women in the camps are partners in community development activities that is relevant to the on-going implementation of program that supports the camps transformation and development) (IN PHOTO: Women in the camps are partners in community development activities that is relevant to the on-going implementation of program that supports the camps transformation and development)

May 2024/ COTABATO CITY-BARMM. It was in 2018, we were traversing a rough road in a remote village in Maguindanao of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), with a woman of war and struggle, who was recalling those hard times during the battle in the past years.

She joined our trip to an uphill community, to meet the indigenous people (IP) in the area, that day.

On our way, this woman who is a wife to a field commander of the armed forces of the MILF, was telling us stories during the times of war. She would compare the tough road then, to the present condition as we were passing by. She would point us to some spots, which are memorable to them e.g., where they get water and food, or stood for a while to hide or rest from running due to war.

“There were no vehicles then. We walked through this land. I have vegetable gardens there. I was very serious about planting. I loved it, those days”, she told giggling.

“And those banana plants”, she added, were very important those days. My husband would really tell his men to plant and plant banana, because according to him, in times of war, we never know what happens. So when we run and hide, and get hungry, we can eat through the bananas, it’s a survival.”

When we finally arrived, we met women in the village. It was in Brgy. Datalpandan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao, a community located in Camp Badre- one of the six major camps of the MILF as identified in the Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

We talked with IP women who descended from their uphill community of the barangay. Accordingly, they walked hours from their home to reach the center of the village, where we met.

The IP sector in the camp has received a farm facility through a project implemented that year (2021). According to them, the corn sheller given to them is indeed a big help.

“We process our corn products manually at home, almost everyone in the family work together. It took us days or a week before we can finish”, they stated.

(IN PHOTO: An IP woman from Camp Badre posed with a farm machinery provided to them in 2020, significant to ease their farm processes in the upper hill village of Brgy. Datalpandan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao).

Based on data of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.), selected communities in the six major camps of the MILF including the Brgy. Datalpandan have been receiving development projects such as warehouse with solar dryer, water system, road projects, community learning centers, solar panel, agri-trading and production facilities, health facilities, road projects, tribal hall for the IPs, including support on various capacity building activities.  

There was also the implementation of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and livelihood support to organized groups in those communities.

From 2021 (last quarter) to present, the project in support to Bangsamoro Transition covers areas in the camps to sustain the milestones on transformation and development. It is funded by the European Union and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation Agency (AECID).

There were 342 completers to ALS who are now formed as people’s organizations to undergo skills training towards social enterprise development.

Early in 2022, another program was launched related to camps development with fund source from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and EU. In the camps are cooperatives, people’s organizations and local social formation groups who are being supported by the program. Various infrastructure projects will also be constructed through this program.

Mid of the same year, the project on camps transformation kicked off carrying various services for the camps people.

All these development interventions, already implemented and still being worked out are all beneficial to the community beneficiaries, helpful in improving the life conditions of the people in those remote areas.

(IN PHOTO: Women, widows, elderlies were among the completers of ALS in the camps that gave them the chance to get education through the program. A chance that was once elusive due to conflict in the past years.)

In Camp Rajamuda, among the ALS completer in August 2022 was a widow who was very happy completing her basic education through the program. She is solely providing for her eight children and being able to study was a big accomplishment for her.

Also in this camp is a high hope for the farmers who will be receiving warehouse with solar dryer.

"With this project, our farming process will be easier”, the farmers expressed.

In Camp Omar, the organized PO is thankful for the continuing aid, through the skills training to help them establish local business.

The tribal hall being constructed at present gives joy to the IP community in this camp.

“There will be more benefits from this tribal hall. We can use this during community gatherings, local occasions, meetings, cultural activities, others”, the IP group said.

In Camp Bilal, a hopeful mother named Racma Baluwa, 30, recall that “I was a child then. We were evacuees. We heard the bombings and saw the explosions. Now, I join this cooperative hoping that it will bring income for my growing family.”  

A youth in the same camp, was happy for being able to continue her studies through the ALS.

In Camp Bushra, a hanging bridge has connected the isolated community in Brgy. Butig, Lanao del Sur through the project implemented in 2021.

In Camp Abubakar, the experience of war becomes the strength of the people to be united and welcome the development coming in to their community.

“It feels good that those we thought impossible are happening now. Life was hard, in the past years. We were very far. There was no stable peace and order. Frequently, there were threats, doubts, and fears. Now, we live with peace”, a woman stated.

One BIAF member shared that their village in the camp was once isolated, with only one or two houses to be found. But, now more people are coming, building their homes, for good.

Data shows that 2018-2019 camps project benefited 51, 410 people with an overall total cost of Php 57M. From 2020-2021 there were 3,471 people served by the project that spent about Php 27M. In 2021, through the Camps of Learning Project (CLP), there were 480 learners of ALS and beneficiaries of skills trainings for livelihood support. In August 2023, there were 342 ALS completers in the camps. And there are 24 cooperatives, 26 people’s organizations and 24 local social formation groups established in relevance to the on-going camps project.

The Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front states about the need for development assistance in the communities that were once centers of battlefields in the past years. These interventions shall be significant to help them transition from conflict to peaceful and progressive communities.

The BDA Inc., as development agency of the MILF, now operating as non-government organization has been a partner towards this mission as the quest for long-lasting peace and development goes on.

(IN PHOTO: Students in MILF Camp Abubakar As- Siddique now enjoy better access to learning through the library project implemented through the PROACTIVE in April 2024.)

Read 53 times Last modified on Friday, 31 May 2024 01:31
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