Aid to Southern Philippines Held Hostage

Continuing armed conflict in the southern Philippines is holding up mobilization of roughly US$50 million in assistance from various international donors.

Liza Azarcon, operations officer for trust funds at the World Bank, said: "A lot of development partners are admittedly not comfortable to extend assistance in the absence of a peace agreement."

Only limited funding is available under the bank-administered Mindanao Trust Fund, said Azarcon during a small forum in Manila on Sept. 1.

The multi-donor trust fund pools modest resources from development partners for reconstruction and development activities in areas in Mindanao affected by ongoing hostilities.

Commitments presently amounting to US$10 million are dedicated to building the capacity of communities and institutions for actual project implementation.

Donors to the trust fund include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, while some Islamic countries are said to be keen to contribute as well. Azarcon indicated, however, that donors are hesitant to roll out large amounts without an assurance of peace, since they fear that aid will be delayed.

The Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were to sign an agreement in August that would have expanded the autonomous region in Mindanao. But the country's highest court issued a restraining order that stopped the signing so the court may review the agreement's constitutionality.

Also in August, two commanders of the armed Muslim group launched attacks on civilian communities in two provinces in Mindanao, prompting a military offensive.

Meanwhile, a peace accord pursued with the rebel group since 1997 remains elusive.

About the author

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    Josefa Cagoco

    Sef Cagoco served as one of Devex's international development correspondent from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Her writing focused on social entrepreneurship and multilateral agencies such as the U.N. and Asian Development Bank. She previously worked as senior reporter for the national daily BusinessWorld and a production journalist for the Financial Times.