September 7, 2020
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Interior and Local Government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MILG-BARMM) completed a rapid assessment survey on how coronavirus could have affected individuals and communities in conflict-affected areas. The survey is part of its ongoing Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CDPB) to support the transition of the Bangsamoro government by 2022.
The survey targeted 113 municipalities, two cities (Marawi and Lamitan), and 63 barangays in North Cotabato within the boundaries of the provinces under BARMM. Respondents included some 1,700 local government officials, barangay executives, and residents in the areas.
According to the survey, COVID-19 affected the region when it comes to "accessing basic necessities and emergency needs as well as in bringing goods and services to main markets" due to limitations in movement and transportation. Among the top reported socioeconomic impacts are anxiety to residents, challenges in public transportation, high price of food and daily necessities, insufficient supply of goods, and insufficient income.
In terms of interventions needed, respondents replied medical supplies and food, improving infrastructure, jobs, and resumption of agricultural activities as among the potential interventions for recovery.
"JICA will continue to support peace building initiatives in the Bangsamoro, particularly in revitalizing its economy in the midst of this pandemic. The global health crisis is particularly hard for Filipinos in conflict-affected areas where many rely on public services," said JICA Philippines Senior Representative EBISAWA Yo. "The survey will help assess the impact of COVID-19, and determine the needs of the communities so they may receive assistance in economic recovery."
Conflict in Mindanao's conflict-affected areas has set back the region's prosperity for decades. The Philippine Family Income and Expenditure Survey 2018 (first semester data), in fact, showed that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao remained one of the country's poorest, with more than half of its families (55.4%), considered poor.
JICA, the world's largest bilateral aid agency and a key Official Development Assistance (ODA) partner of the Philippines, is supporting peace and development in Mindanao to boost the prosperity in the region. Japan's total ODA for Mindanao peace and development has reached JPY 51 billion (2002-2019).