By: Undersecretary Virgilio L. Leyretana, Chairman, Mindanao Economic Development Council
In the early 1990s when the government’s development planning thrust supported regional development, Mindanao, among the country’s island-regions took the boldest initiative to chart its own development direction. On 19 March 1992, Mindanawons marked history when the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) was formed as a principal institution that will put together in a more complementary and integrated fashion all the development efforts in the island-region.
Seventeen years after, the 40 strong members of the MEDCo council and its secretariat stood still, with the same vigor and commitment to fulfill the immense promise that is Mindanao. Three Philippine Presidents have passed, yet MEDCo with the help of its strategic partners has managed to sustain the determined effort of accelerating the socio-economic growth of Mindanao within and beyond its borders.
And so with MEDCo at 17 and BIMP-EAGA at 15th, amidst the current global economic challenges that call for strengthening ties, there is much to celebrate the gains of what has been achieved so far for Mindanao and look forward to a bigger, bolder and stronger boost in the years ahead.
Accomplishments Over the years
In its role as the principal integrator for Mindanao’s development, MEDCo has developed a one Mindanao consciousness through the establishment and strengthening of some Mindanao-wide networks and mechanisms such as the Mindanao-wide Task Forces, Mindanao Super Region Team and Interagency Group, Telecommunications Monitoring and Advisory Group (TMAG), Mindanao Lawmakers Association, and MINDACOMNET.
MEDCo also coordinated and assisted both the private (business and NGOs) and public sectors in the project implementation and initiatives in Mindanao. Thru the facilitation efforts and sustained monitoring done by MEDCo, the following projects were implemented and completed:
1. Davao-Bukidnon Road
2. Davao International Airport Project
3. Mindanao Backbone Transmission Project
4. Alternate Quirino Bridge , Cotabato City .
5. Construction of RoRo facilities in Western Mindanao ports.
6. Provision of 12 bridges along Palimbang-Kalamansi g Road , Palimbang section
Introduced by MEDCo as a mechanism to resolve various issues affecting the implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects, the Infrastructure Monitoring Advisory Group (IMAG) concept was able to facilitate completion of 14 projects resulting to concrete paving of 743 kilometers of national roads, additional 10,000 hectares of service area for irrigation and operationalization of Davao International Airport in 2000 and Mindanao Container Terminal Port in Misamis Oriental. Twenty five (25) IMAGs have been initiated and assisted by MEDCo in Mindanao since March 1996. Through IMAG major projects such as the Zamboanga-Pagadian Road, Davao-Bukidnon Road and Davao-Digos Road, Malitubog-Maridagao (MalMar) Irrigation Project (MMIP), Stage 1, Lower Agusan Development Project, Flood Control Component and Construction of Bayugan Bridges 1 & 2 along Bayugan-San Francisco Road, Agusan del Sur were completed.
In pursuit of its principal mandate to ensure active stakeholders’ participation in Mindanao, MEDCo has also empowered LGUs as the frontline of Mindanao’s development through various mechanisms.
MEDCo serves as the Secretariat to the Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors, and Municipal Mayors League Presidents of Mindanao (CONFED-Mindanao). It is an organization of Mindanao LCEs formed to address the need to coordinate all efforts towards the holistic development of Mindanao.
In order to rationalize and facilitate the flow of ODA in Mindanao to areas where development assistance is needed most, MEDCo, in close collaboration with the Caraga Regional Development Council, pursued the Convergence Meeting with Project Management Offices (PMOs) operating in Mindanao (2006), Caraga Small Group Convergence Meeting (2006) and Maguindanao Convergence Meeting (2007).
MEDCo has also been ensuring that the academe and civil society organizations actively engage themselves in the development process. As a secretariat to the academe-led Mindanao Studies Consortium Foundation, Inc. an organization that aims to facilitate and coordinate researches for the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao , MEDCo has been instrumental in facilitating for the major activities and projects of the consortium. The latest accomplishment of the Consortium is a review of peace and development paradigms and practices in Mindanao.
Identified as a key partner agency in the implementation of the following programs and projects that are viewed as strategic investments for peace and development in Mindanao, MEDCo has then become either the implementing or oversight agency in the implementation of major programs and projects such as the Action for Conflict Transformation (ACT) for Peace Programme and Mindanao Peace and Development (MPAD) Program.
In terms of development coordination and aid harmonization, MEDCo locates itself as the coordinating arm for every program or project, classified as either interregional, Mindanao-wide, or nationwide in scope. MEDCo was able to enhance complementation of efforts among Mindanao’s development partners through various mechanisms such as the Mindanao Working Group and Convergence Groups.
As the Philippine coordinating office for BIMP-EAGA, MEDCo has strengthened the participation of Mindanao and Palawan in BIMP-EAGA and advocated policy reforms that are geared towards increasing trade, tourism and investments across the sub-region.
MEDCo advocated for an equitable tax sharing scheme for LGUs, in partnership with Economic Policy and Reform Advocacy (EPRA) Project, different League of LGUs in the Philippines which resulted in the: (1) issuance of the Executive Order 646 allowing sharing of BIR data and (2) approval and issuance of Local Finance Circulars on Banks (LFC 02-07).
Mindanao gained sustainability in the national government paradigm shift from state interventionist to private sector-driven economic policies:
1. MOU on expansion of air linkages which grants Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights (FFTR);
2. Adopted a uniform port tariffs for vessels plying within EAGA and 50% discount for all operational and regulatory fees for airline carriers flying BIMP-EAGA route;
3. Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) functions are decentralized;
4. In addition to General Santos as limited port of entry, Bongao Port in Tawi Tawi has been declared as an international port of entry.