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The Outlook (1): Philippines - After the unrest in Mindanao

Publication date:2019-07-25
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami M.D., Ph.D. (President of AMDA)
 
 

Marawi City entrance

The 2017 unrest that broke out in Mindanao, Philippines, has not been lost in oblivion. The battle that took place between the government military forces and Islamic militants left a pesky legacy of undetonated bombs in the central part of the city. Still now, foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the area.

As there is a sign at the city entrance of Marawi that says, “Islamic City”, the western part of Mindanao has set itself to establish autonomy based on the Bangsamoro Organic Law enacted on 26 July 2018. (The establishment of the autonomous government of Bangsamoro is scheduled on 22 February 2019.) In the local language, “bangsa” means people or a state whereas “moro” refers to the Muslim Malays, a word which was used by the Spaniards in the colonial days. Although President Rodrigo Duterte hails from Mindanao, it may not have been an easy task for the central government to govern the area from Manila, the nation’s administrative center.

The Philippines mainly consists of three regions, namely, Luzon, Mindanao, as well as Visayas which is located between the two islands. What allowed President Duterte to win his presidency was mainly the robust support from Mindanao and Visayas that led him to assume office.

Ms. Gloria J. Mercado is one of AMDA’s important partners in the Philippines. She currently serves as Executive Director, Deputy Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity at the Office of the President of the Philippines in which her department is the very section in charge of enacting the Bangsamoro law.

Ms. Mercado used to work for ex-Cabinet Secretary of the Philippines Leoncio Evasco Jr. as his head secretary, following her role as Senior Vice President of the Development Academy of the Philippines.

She deserves much credit for the success of large-scale government-driven projects in the Philippines. Likewise, our peace-building initiatives were made possible owing to her role as a person in charge of AMDA-GPSP framework. GPSP stands for “Global Partnership for Sustainable Peace”, a scheme AMDA created to collaborate with various organizations from different sectors to pursue peace.

GPSP focuses on four fields, namely, peace building, livelihood support, educational support, and health assistance. More importantly, what underlies GPSP is a three-pillar principle based on “Sogo-fujo (mutual assistance)”, “partnership” and “local initiative.   
 

Ms. Mercado (right)

Dr. Suganami with Mindanao state officials


AMDA’s peace-building efforts date back to 1994 at the time of civil war in former Yugoslavia in which AMDA provided medical relief for war refugees for four years. In 1999, AMDA mediated an armistice deal between Taliban and the National Front of Afghanistan to sign a cease fire agreement in 1999 that allowed all children in the country to receive immunization. In the meantime, AMDA organized a mobile clinic project in war-torn Sri Lanka for every ethnic/religious community in the nation, irrespective of what their ethnicity or faith may be.

In April 2018, I was able to enter the city of Marawai where entry of foreign nationals is usually prohibited. It was made possible thanks to Ms. Mercado’s support. My aim was to grasp the situation at Amai Pakpak Medical Center and Mindanao State University which I have known for some time. The medical center was taken over by Islamic militants at the height of turmoil. However, with a sigh of relief, I was glad to see the clinic bringing itself back to life with many patients waiting to be seen. There, Dr. Amer Saber, the then-chief of the hospital, informed me a lot about the ongoing situation in the locality.

At Mindanao States University, they set up a small corner dedicated to providing information about Japan, alongside the United States’ which seemed to be a bit outdated compared to that of our country.

In the suburbs of Marawi stood a small-scale temporary shelter area where construction work had been up and running. We decided to establish a library for children as a model case in one of the districts there. For the selection of books and room layout, I commissioned the work to Women in National Development and Security (WINDS), a women’s organization founded by Ms. Mercado. With this library project, we sincerely hope our work has contributed to Mindanao’s peace building.
 

The temporary shelter area

Mindanao State University

 

 

    •  Philippines
    •  2019

 
 
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