The Asian Development Bank has called on the Philippines and other countries in the region to boost economic opportunities in strife-torn areas.
In a report, ADB said that while Asia enjoys robust economic growth, implementing programs that will address the development needs of conflict areas are necessary to enable growth to be more inclusive.
Although it would be difficult to implement development programs in conflict areas, the benefits of boosting opportunities and development in affected provinces far outweigh the risks.
ADB cited the Philippines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as some of the countries that need to squarely address the development needs of local areas torn by conflict.
In the case of the Philippines, ADB said conflicts in parts of Mindanao have dampened growth of the entire island.
“While there have been no interstate wars in the [Asian] region in the past decade, sub-national situations are a widespread problem, affecting nearly two-thirds of the countries in South and Southeast Asia. Whereas most of Asia is rapidly developing, fragile sub-national areas typically lag in key development indicators,” ADB said.
“Many of these regions have been afflicted by conflict for decades, leading to protracted cycles of underdevelopment, poor governance, and instability.”
ADB said the Philippines and the other countries concerned would need more people on the ground to communicate and gather support to put the necessary programs in place.
It noted that skirmishes between the military and the New People’s Army and separatist groups not only resulted in an estimated 120,000 deaths since the 1970s, it also prevented affected provinces from economically catching up with the rest of the country.
“Many other lines of conflict also contribute to violence, such as the terrorist acts of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and clan feuds, creating an atmosphere of fear, poverty, and social division. Though affected areas represent just a fraction of Mindanao, the entire island has suffered the adverse effects,” ADB said.
Although the Philippine economy expanded by 6.8 percent in 2012, the benefits of growth were enjoyed mostly by the rich and the middle class, economists said.
As of June 2012, poverty incidence in the Philippines stood at 27.9 percent, one of the highest among the emerging economies in Asia. Many of the country’s poorest provinces are in Mindanao.