The political economy of Mindanao

By: Fernando Fajardo May 29,2019 - 07:00 AM

Known as the land of promise, Mindanao accounts for 34 percent of the Philippines’ 300,000 square kilometers of land. The island is greatly endowed with minerals, particularly in the Caraga Region, and wide tracts of land that is highly fitted for production of various annual and seasonal crops on the rest of the Island.

Mindanao was once known for its large forest reserves but much of it were already cut down for domestic use or export in the sixties and the seventies with very little attempt to reforest.

In the 2015 census, the population of Mindanao was counted at 24.1 million or 24 percent of the total population of the country. It used to be mainly occupied by people of Islamic faith and various other non-Muslim tribes.

Muslim traders beginning in the 13th and 14th centuries introduced Islam to Mindanao. This was some 200 years before the Spaniards introduced Christianity when they came into the country in the middle of the 16th century. These Muslim merchants, who first reached Sulu Islands and Mindanao, came from present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. They were able to convert easily the locals at the time who were animists and lived in small, autonomous communities.

The Spaniards when they came were perhaps very much surprise to find Mindanao controlled by Muslims for they themselves just succeeded in driving away the Muslims who invaded and occupied much of their motherland for almost 800 years.

Owing to migration before and after the last war that continues up to this day, majority of the people in Mindanao now are Christians. However, some four to five million Muslims or about a fifth of the total population of the island still predominates in several provinces traditionally occupied by them since the beginning.

Based on the revised and rebased computation of the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) or final output of goods and services coming from the various regions in the country, last year or in 2018, Mindanao contributed 14.4 percent of the Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Under the old series in 1975, Mindanao contributed 17 percent of the Philippine GDP.

Based on the same revised and rebased GDRP series, Mindanao’s performance compares well with the Visayas that contributed only 12.6 percent of the Philippine GDP in 2018. Before the revision, the Visayas contributed 19 percent of the GDP in 1975.

The Visayas has 18.9 percent of the country’s land. In the 2015 census, its population was counted at 19.4 million or 19 percent of the total population of the country.

Luzon, which has 47 percent of the land area and 57 percent of the total population of the country, accounted for the bulk of the 2018 GDP at 73 percent. Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) alone contributed 37.5 percent though it has only less than one percent of the country’s land and 13 percent of the population.

Mindanao is divided into six regions. These are the Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, Caraga, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Among the six regions, the most progressive is Davao Region. Last year, the region contributed 4.4 percent to the Philippine GDP.

Next to Davao Region is Northern Mindanao with 3.8 percent contribution to the Philippine GDP last year.

The most depressed region is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with only 0.6 percent contribution to the Philippine GDP, followed by Caraga with 1.1 percent.

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