By Beatrice M. Laforga, Reporter

THE Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Region may attract more investments if violent conflicts and political tensions continue to decline, with the infrastructure sector seen to benefit the most.

Analysts also noted the key role that intergovernmental relations will play in ensuring a smooth transition and addressing long-standing conflicts.

BARMM saw 2,655 incidents of violent conflict in 2019, 9% lower than the year prior, according to the latest report by the monitoring group Conflict Alert and the World Bank.

The report tracked conflicts in the Bangsamoro region over a nine-year period, showing 2019 was the third consecutive year of a decline in violent incidents.

Deaths due to violence also continued to fall to 851 in 2019, from 900 the year prior and 2,261 in 2017.

“However, in many pockets and corridors of the Bangsamoro, identity cleavages hardened with high incidence of clan feuding, personal grudges, and resource conflicts. Violence due to the shadow economies in illegal drugs and illegal guns surged while extremist violence remained resilient,” the report noted.

Issues involving illegal drugs topped the list of causes of conflict in the region, followed by illicit firearms, robbery, violent extremism, clan feud, illegal gambling, executive and judicial decisions, personal grudge, gender-related issues and elections.

Investments to BARMM have also been affected by the sustained tensions, but a continued decline in conflict incidents will encourage investors to enter the region,

Finance Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil S. Beltran said.

“Initially, investments will focus on basic infrastructure — power, water, telecommunications, roads and ports. Later, investments will come for tourism, construction and manufacturing,” Mr. Beltran said via e-mail.

The Department of Finance is part of the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) where BARMM officials meet with their counterparts in the National Government to address issues and help with the transition period of the new region.

For Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, agriculture and tourism sectors in BARMM will likely benefit the most.

“If the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) continues laying down a strong foundation for the first elected Bangsamoro Parliament in 2022, the status of the BARMM as the poorest region in the Philippines could dramatically change within the decade,” Mr. Yusingco said via e-mail over the weekend.

“Yet this positive trajectory can still be scuttled by spoilers, the most dangerous and imminent of which is violent extremism,” he said, noting another incident like the Marawi siege could derail the region’s progress.

Preventing another wave of violent extremism should be the top priority, but Mr. Yusingco said the state is struggling to address this due to lack of cooperation and bureaucracy.

“It is worth noting that cooperation and collaboration by and between the central government and local governments have yet to be instinctively and consistently practiced despite the fact that intergovernmental relations mechanisms can be found in the nation’s charter and in various laws,” he said.

The IGRB met six times last year and has set four intergovernmental bodies needed to implement the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). These are the Fiscal Policy Board, Joint Body for Zones of Joint Cooperation, Infrastructure Development Board and the Energy Board.

Mr. Yusingco said the IGRB can also take on the responsibility of managing the National Action Plan on preventing and countering violent extremism in the region.

“The sooner the IGRB takes on this mantle, the better for the Bangsamoro people and the region’s prospects for economic development,” he added.

Republic Act. No. 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, signed July 2018, established the BARMM in a bid to sustain peace in the new region.