INTRODUCTION Generally, rural development deals with the processes of change in rural societies. It is a special concern for the equity goal such as poverty alleviation, income distribution, eradication of social inequality and equal access to public goods and services in rural areas. It is supposed to be a special distributional activity, a package of interventions not only to increase agricultural production but also to improve the entire rural economy. Just like in other developing countries, majority of people in the country lives in rural areas that are hardly reached by public goods and services. The rural areas are characterized by low quality of life. The situation has resulted from low productivity and the lack of alternative source of endeavors.
In Mindanao, though a resource-rich island, it has a high incidence of poverty, reaching nearly 50 percent in Central Mindanao. Apparently, the management of rural development is becoming more and more challenging while the government faces an equal challenge to respond to the physical and socio-economic development issues as the rural areas in the region continue to be neglected. Accordingly, at least 700, 000 people in 433 baran gays in Central Mindanao were affected by the fighting, according to the D SWD. Poverty continues to plague a greater portion of the Muslim population particularly in conflict-affected areas while minimum needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and basic health and education services have to be met. Notably, the armed conflict has profoundly affected the social, cultural, political and significantly the economic life of Muslim communities in the conflict and surrounding areas.
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Aside from insurgency war between the government forces and the Muslim rebel groups, the other potential cause or source of armed conflict is attributed to “Rido” or family clan war / feud . With the extent and magnitude of human deprivation and resource degradation in conflict-affected areas, rural development has become increasingly important, and there is an urgent reason to promote and rationalize rural development and administration. In this paper, I will focus my discussion on the Rural Development in conflict-affected areas in Central Mindanao. However, the study will be limited only to the province of Lanao Del Sur, one of the four (4) provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
With reference to the prevailing condition in the area, I will describe the weaknesses and strengths of the legal and institutional framework and service delivery modes of local government units of the province as the primary rural development agencies in the area. Then, I wish to identify some operational strategies for improving the elements of the framework and delivery mode.
Likewise, I will present some strategies that could result to institution building for rural developments in my attempt to bring the much-needed improvement in those rural areas. Finally, I will discuss some important functions of a rural development administrator / manager . LEGAL AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK AND SERVICE DELIVERY MODE The legal and institutional framework for rural development is anchored on the Philippine Constitution. The Constitution is the highest law in the land that guarantees rural administration and development. To wit, “The State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform program.” (Sec 21 Art II).
The Constitution further states relevant provisions for rural areas.
These constitutional provisions include among others the promotion of a just and dynamic social order, free people from poverty, promotion of full employment, raising the living standard and improvement of quality of life (Article II, Section 9); equitable distribution of opportunities, income, wealth, a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services for the benefit of the people especially the underprivileged (Article XII, Section 1).
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These serve as the legal mandates, which are supposed to be exercised at the level of local government units (LGUs) and by government agencies and institutions to vigorously pursue the rural development in their respective functional area. Several other laws and policies were enacted including government development programs for the improvement of rural areas and intended to address rural development. Likewise, the State, Private sector and Civil Society play important roles in implementing and ensuring the delivery of services, which is further elaborated in the Local Government Code of 1991.
Since Lanao Del Sur is covered by the ARMM region, the delivery of rural development services is also ensured by the organic act for regional autonomy in Mindanao under the Republic Act No. 6734 that provides for the creation of the ARMM, and is intended to express the desire of the people of the region “to develop a just and humane society and establish an Autonomous Regional Government that is truly reflective of their ideals and aspirations, and to secure for themselves their posterity the blessings of autonomy, democracy, peace, justice and equality.” Weaknesses and Strength of the framework. The various institutions that are tasked with oversight functions on government are in itself the main strength of the legal and institutional framework. They are supposed to implement policies concerning various issues affecting rural areas such as agriculture, food security, land policies, fisheries and coastal resources, watershed and upland development, indigenous people’s rights, etc. They are armed not only with a clear mandate as prescribed by the Constitution but also with programs that are supposed to address the development, modernization, management and administration of rural sectors.
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However, the very poor condition of conflict-affected areas only shows that the legal and institutional framework for rural development as applied in Lanao del Sur, lacks substantial ingredient and mechanism to ensure the promotion of rural development. Some noted weaknesses of the framework are as follows: 1. Lack of adaptable programs specifically targeting conflict-affected areas. With the supposed Mindanao Rural Development Project (MRDP) as an adaptable program loan of national government, it is designed as a targeted poverty reduction program for the rural poor and indigenous communities of Mindanao. It is aimed specifically at improving incomes and food security in the targeted rural communities within the 24 provinces of Mindanao. However, it is surprising to note that the province of Lanao del Sur is not included in this program.
Another part of the government framework and thrust in Mindanao is the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) which aims to enhance the economic opportunities and social participation of indigenous people and marginalized population of Mindanao. However, the SZOPAD was adapted only in support of the 1996 final peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and thus only catered to limited areas where MNLF communities were located. Besides, this program was already terminated last 2002. We have also the “Kapit-Bi sig Laban sa Kahirapan” (KALAHI) program, a response of the Arroyo Administration to alleviate the poverty in the country.
The KALAHI has identified five strategies which actually intersect social, economic and administrative development requirements of the poor which include asset reform, human development, employment and livelihood, participation in governance of basic sectors, and social protection and security against violence (Bautista, 2001).
So far, the program mostly benefited the poor urban areas in Luzon but not the conflict-affected areas in the province of Lanao del Sur. Nonetheless, various projects under the so-called “Kawiyagan sa Lanao” has been initiated as part of the recent innovation of the provincial government (livelihood in Lanao) to provide livelihood for the people but specifically empowering the Maranaos women by creating women leadership Task Force, and only benefited about four (4) municipalities in the northeastern part of the province. 2. Lack of honest and efficient administration.
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Despite the presence of various interlocking institutions to address the intended rural development, the lack of commitment and sincerity of those in office and officials in both local and regional government in the area resulted to the inefficient administration and mismanagement of government resources, particularly on finances. Public service is not what matters most. Even most of the politicians or elected officials believed that they have done their part when they paid for their votes during the election. They believe their expenses during the election are an investment and could be compensated in the future by taking a huge part of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA).
The Maranaos (people of Lanao) have a way of describing the government as “Bebe rno a Sarong-a-tao”, which simply means a government of foreigners or alien (Rasul, 2001).
This attitude makes corruption acceptable and viewed taking the money of an oppressor or the unwanted foreign government only as a right of the individual. Aside from being inefficient and corrupt, the leaders’ hiring of people is based on loyalty and kinship. This further contributed to inefficient administration and poor governance as their close relatives easily influenced decisions of the local chief executives. 3. Failure to implement enforceable laws against delinquent public officials and to impose accountability. Since those who brandish much power and influence run the local government units, most leaders commit abuses and use their position to falsify or take advantage.
Thus, the absence of an independent or legal body to ensure check and balance and impose accountability to local leaders in the municipality only allow corruption to perpetuate. 4. Lack of transparency in governance and delivery of services. I believe this is the failure of legal structures and institutions to enforce transparency in governance and delivery of public services. Local officials are given the full autonomy to implement their programs and projects.
However, the rural areas in Lanao Del Sur remains impoverished due to lack of attention given by both the LGUs and regional government agencies of the ARMM. If there are any projects to be made, they concentrate in municipal and provincial centers like Marawi City while the conflict-affected areas remain isolated from the needed assistance. Weaknesses and Strength of service delivery modes. Notably, the 310 baran gays (out of the total 416 baran gays) or 75 percent of the baran gays in the province that are highly influenced by the Muslim secessionist group like the MILF are hardly reached by necessary assistance and services. Also, it was revealed that “Rido” or family feuds affect 17 municipalities of the total 37 municipalities or 45 percent (as of latest reports of military units in the area in March 2005) and remain in a sad state of underdevelopment because of infighting. “Rido” incidents are even used by the local leaders and officials as an excuse for their inability to provide the necessary services.
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Thus, the unstable local situation has greatly hindered the development opportunities due to vulnerability to armed conflict. Practically, no significant development can be observed in rural or depressed areas. Accordingly, the LGUs of the province, from the provincial down to the municipal level, and the ARMM regional government are supposed to be the main rural development agencies that should address the complexity of problems and poverty issues that was brought about by the armed conflict and ensure the promotion of the rural development in the area. Let me now cite some of the weaknesses of their service delivery modes: 1. Lack of focus and direction in the program of development in conflict affected areas. At the provincial level, the programs and projects are determined on a piecemeal approach and upon request of municipal local executives.
Though on paper, the province has conceptualized a so-called Executive Legislative Agenda (ELA), which states the province’s modest goals and programs towards sustainable peace and socio-economic development, it is however noted that the implementation of identified projects are still highly dependent on the discretion of the Local Chief Executive of the province. As observed, sometimes the inaction of the provincial government to address the needs of depressed areas is the result of a highly politicized system in the province characterized by too much alienation among rival political parties. At the municipal level, the conflict situation has paralyzed the local government units to implement necessary projects for fear or apprehension that the projects will only be anyway destroyed or damaged when fighting occurs either between the military and Muslim rebel groups or between family clans. Instead, LGUs resort to just meeting some superficial needs of their constituents. For example in Pualas municipality, because of the intense “Rido” with his rival, the Municipal Mayor compensated for his long absence in the area by providing financial assistance to some families.
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Rural underdevelopment is due to under utilization of resources. If there are any assistance or projects in the area, the municipal or provincial government only provides and / or undertakes superficial activities as a token support to partially appease the plight or flight of the affected community. 2. Inaccessibility of LGUs and ARMM agency field offices.
Most, if not all, of the Municipal mayors in potential conflict and “Rido” affected areas are living in Marawi, I ligan and Cagayan de Oro City because of fear or serious threat to their lives by their rival group while other municipal appointed officials are staying in nearby municipalities or safer areas to avoid the conflict. For example, the municipal social worker of Tuba ran municipality and the planning officer of Picong (formerly Sultan Gum ander) hold their offices in Malabang municipality. Also in Tu baran, one of the interior municipalities in Lanao del Sur, the municipal mayor could only visit the area when accompanied or escorted by the military. As such, the unstable peace and order condition and unrest in potential conflict areas, particularly in the affected baran gays, has crippled the capacity of the local government and concerned agencies to provide order, employment and economic opportunities that are supposed to alleviate the economy and livelihood of the people.
Consequently, the basic infrastructure and support system in the communities had been left unattended. That is why most of the rural community faces problems of declining services, amenities, economic opportunities and isolation from urban centers. 3. Lack of continuity in projects implementation and governance.
The failure of the present administration in different localities to continue the projects of the former administration is mostly attributed to family clan war or “Rido.” Because of intense rivalry and differences in political interests, the new local chief executives in conflict-affected areas have established their municipal centers at their bailiwicks where they could wield their power and influence. Hence, some municipal halls established by the former administrations were abandoned while relatives and supporters of political opponents and / or rival groups are least in priority to be given assistance. 4. Lack of stakeholders’ participation in the development.
The seemingly poor participation in governance is attributed to the inability of LGUs to provide a venue for cooperation and consultation from NGOs and people in the community. Likewise the inability of LGUs to create job opportunities led to the low employment rating of 50. 98 percent and marginal incidence rating of poor families of 63 percent (PP DO Lanao del Sur, 2004).
As such, most people remained dependent on LGUS assistance and other support package from other government agencies. In a way, grant and assistance are not helping the poor community to become self-reliant and productive citizens. On the other hand, the strength of service delivery mode of LGUs is found in terms of its exercise of local autonomy and familiarity with environment and culture.
With the 1991 Local Government Code and creation of the ARMM regional government, the decentralization of power to LGUs and exercise of its local autonomy are more enhanced. It is explicitly provided in the Code that the decentralization of government functions and services is geared toward the socioeconomic development of LGUs (Padilla, 1998) and enable them to undertake local development programs including in areas affected by armed conflict. Meanwhile, the familiarity of LGUs with its environment and culture should work to their advantage, especially in understanding the basic needs of their constituents and Muslim brothers. Their performance in public service and delivery of necessary services should be reflective of their commitment to help their disadvantaged and underprivileged fellow Maranaoans. OPERATIONAL STRATEGIES FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF FRAMEWORK AND SERVICE DELIVERY MODES In order to address the complex problems of poverty and underlying factors of fuel ling the conflict in Lanao Del Sur, I have listed a number of operational strategies that include the following: 1.
Support government peace process and pursue the avenues of peace in the effort to reconcile warring groups. Peace and order is undoubtedly a prime requirement for rural development to take-off. This may require the creation of a special monitoring body or a mediation and reconciliation group from among the local and religious leaders and highly respected personalities in the area to address the root cause of conflict. It may also require close collaboration with military units in the area to play the supporting role in the possible settlement of disputes. 2. Identification of programs to alleviating poverty in conflict affected areas and giving their implementation high priority and emphasis.
These should include projects that will contribute to the improvement of rural development in order to alleviate the economy, increase agri-business, increase profit and add to employment of people. For example, farm to market road or construction of an all-weather road that will reach the market, rehabilitation of water system, improvement of the public market, provision for housing projects and development of other agri-business opportunities. 3. Encourage participative action of both government and non-government organizations / agencies through lead-agency concept. There is a need to maximize inter-agency coordination to ensure delivery of necessary services and by prioritizing the affected, undeveloped and or less privileged areas.
This is also to encourage the introduction of a mechanism for advancement and availability of technology particularly in the improvement of agricultural production in farmlands and industrial plantations. 4. Mobilize private and people organization for their active participation in rural development projects. It should aim to increase awareness, participation and cooperation of the community. The need to collectively help the Maranaos to bring them awareness and involvement in peace building is becoming more relevant. This should allow the Maranaoans to understand common peace values and bases in order to the culture of violence into an enduring culture of peace.
It is high time for the Maranaos to resist their old traditional culture that dampen their growth and to accept changes. This may be a continuing and long-term approach to resist the development. 5. Increased resource allocation for rural development activities especially in poor areas and in the deprived communities.
The greater part of LGUs resources must be channeled to essential projects that has high impact on rebuilding and improving the quality of life of the community in the potential conflict areas. 6. Continue the monitoring and evaluation of programs, policies and implementation of projects. This is a matter of necessity in order to sustain whatever development gains.
The LGUs should not stop in designing new ways and innovations, only if necessary to become relevant and sensitive to the needs of conflict environment. STRATEGIES INSTITUTIONAL BUILDING FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT While attempts need to be made to bring the sustainable solution of the present problem, the immediate re-establishment of basic services to meet civilian needs has become the province’s first priority. These immediate needs must however be supplemented by medium and long-term strategies that addresses the root causes and main consequences of conflict. The following are some strategies institutional building for rural development: 1. Formulation of a Comprehensive Master Development Plan at the provincial and municipal level. This will discourage the putting up or implementation of vanity or junket projects where a lot of government resources are put to waste.
2. Consolidation of Grants, Assistance and other foreign aide. This will provide focus and concentration of efforts in rebuilding the area. Donor countries or agencies could just select from among the programs and projects that have been prioritized by the province based on its master development plan. 3. Enhance the educational system and facilities in the municipal centers.
There is a need to strengthen first the educational system and facilities at the municipal hub so the standard of education in the province would be enhanced. The creation of satellite schools in remote areas may come later but any attempt to branch out the education in rural areas will only ruin government resources. In fact, many schools in remote and conflict-affected areas are either abandoned or destroyed. Worse than that, school teachers continue to receive their salaries even though they do not hold classes.
4. Enhance commercial activities and infrastructures at commercial business centers. This is to encourage the increase of profit of LGUs while the enhancement of the commercial centers will serve as the backbone of economic activity of each municipality. 5.
Enhance Confidence Building Measures (C BMs) among stockholders to bring about the necessary change and development in rural areas. This can be done through constant dialogue and consultation of concerned LGUs, NGO, Private organizations and the people in the province. FUNCTIONS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATOR/MANAGER The above discussion has made the task of a Rural Development Manager more difficult. The crucial role of concerned LGUs and agencies in the province has also become relevant to bring the genuine change and significant influence in the area and communities affected by the conflict.
Based on the prevailing situation and above premise, I have listed some important functions of a rural development manager / administrator : 1. Active intervention in the settlement of conflict. 2. Manage government resources.
3. Planning and goal setting. 4. Ensure the delivery of public goods and services. 5. Attend to the basics needs of the people.
6. Creation of job opportunities. 7. Enhance agricultural activities. 8. Continuous evaluation of performance to sustain development gains.
CONCLUSION The long-lasting strife in Central Mindanao has aggravated the issue of poverty in the area. As for Lanao Del Sur, the complexity of problems in conflict-affected areas has challenged the ability of rural development agencies in providing the much-needed help and improvement to the affected communities. Likewise, the “Rido” conflict in turn has made this task more difficult. Hence, rural development programs have been adversely affected while insecurity has made it difficult to carry out development activities in affected areas. As a result the livelihood as well as the delivery of basic services (health, education, etc. ) have been disturbed severely.
The threats and subsequent absence of local officials have considerably weakened their productive capacity to govern as infrastructure base for maintaining essential service delivery to the people have been neglected? The challenge is to develop and implement an appropriate operational strategy to address the underlying causes of poverty, underdevelopment and armed conflict, combined with measures to address basic needs in conflict-affected areas. While it offers wide range of opportunities for growth and development, concerned LGUs must be able to formulate such strategies in order to sustain the gains and foster greater accountability among local officials. As a matter of necessity, however, all programs and basic services need to be implemented in line with its institutional goals and in ways which are sensitive to the conflict environment. This will require careful identification of programs that could really help alleviate the poverty situation or contribute to the improvement of the economic condition in the area, and most importantly, improve the quality of life of the people. Experience indicates that development, which has strong community support, provides direct benefits, employs local people and is perceived to be transparent, accountable and apolitical, is more likely to be able to operate in conflict areas. Thus, concerned LGUs in the area must learn to reflect essential lessons in governance to provide direction in their administration and developmental activities.
Moreover, foremost to the success of our operational strategy is to become aware of the prevailing threats (such as feudal conflict or clan war; increasing; presence of armed groups, and proliferation’s of loose fire arms, ) that seriously affect the condition not only of the conflict affected areas but as well as the way of life of the people in the whole province. There is therefore an urgent need for a strong political will and determination to continue resolving the root causes of conflict and violence in the area. The inaction and passiveness to this issue will continue to put the people in hardship and suffering, and worse, will seriously hamper the prospects for economic development and the attainment of social justice and equity. Nonetheless, without the sincere commitment of the ARMM regional government and LGUs and active participation of the community, efforts of these institutions or agencies including the peace efforts and interventions of military and police authorities will not also bring significant impact to and development of the rural areas. References: 1.
Amina Rasul, The Road to Peace and Reconciliation Muslim Perspective on the Mindanao Conflict, AIM Policy Center, Asian Institute of Management, 2003. 2. A paper on Conflict and development in Nepal, web Ave lino P Tenedero, Dolores Reyes and Ma. Socorro F. Manas, Philippine Development Issues: An Inquiry, National Bookstore, 1984. 4.
Bautista, Victoria A. , A Critique of the KALAHI Program, UPNCPAG, 2001. 5. Interview with Hon. Jamil And amun, Municipal Mayor of Pualas Municipality, Lanao Del Sur on March 3, 2005. 6.
Interview with Mrs. Zinaida Sarip, Principal, Malabang Central School, Malabang Municipality, Lanao Del Sur on February 22, 2005. 7. Interview with Mr.
Tindegaranao M. Sarip, Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer, DAR-ARMM, Malabang Municipality, Lanao Del Sur on February 21, 2005. 8. Interview with Mr. Sagusara P. Dingdong, Municipal Planning Officer, Picong Municipality, Lanao Del Sur on February 28, 2005.
9. The Factors of Underdevelopment: A Discourse on Mindanao Rehabilitation Initiatives by Suharto A. Abas, July 2004, web mindanao review. htm. 10. web I Bank Servlet? p cont = details&end = 000094946 9911130534172011.
web Mindanao Rural Development Project (MRDP), web Mindanao Economy in Perspective Mindanao’s Industry and Trade: Trends, Prospects and Agenda for Action Under the Estrada Administration by Lourdes Saul o-Adriano. web.