On the eve of the investiture of University of the Philippines (UP) President Angelo “Jijil” A. Jimenez at the UP Mindanao Atrium, a historic consultation meeting with Bangsamoro Transition Authority officials and stakeholders was held at the Dusit Thani Residences in Davao City on September 13. Representatives from the UP System and constituent units, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government, and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in BARMM discussed opportunities for collaboration, with the goal of improving the socio-economic conditions of the Bangsamoro region and Mindanao in general.
UP Mindanao Chancellor Lyre Anni E. Murao said the event was an affirmation of the academic leaders’ desire to help Mindanaoans. She added that UP is eager to cooperate and harmonize its efforts with partner SUCs, primarily the Mindanao State University System (MSU).
UP Pres. Jimenez, a Manobo and Mindanaoan himself, explained that while Mindanao is rich in natural and human resources, the regions’ development was severely stifled due to deeply-rooted problems that cause poverty, underdevelopment, and social conflicts.
“I realized, so many years ago, that the people of Mindanao likewise deserve to experience the same fruits of development and peace that more progressive provinces of our archipelago were already enjoying,” Jimenez emphasized, and said further that he hoped UP could actively serve as catalyst and enabler for social transformation.
Jimenez called on all stakeholders to “seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partner now with the national University, while it is being led by one of us, and allow one another to help sustain Mindanao’s overall progress,” in accordance with the University’s mandate under Republic Act 9500, which is to lead in the nation’s higher education and public service spheres.
“The University of the Philippines is eager to support the development of educational institutions within the Bangsamoro region. By providing technical assistance, faculty exchanges, and curriculum development support, we aim to empower the youth with quality education, fostering a knowledge-based society,” Jimenez said.
For Jimenez, the meeting is “a significant milestone towards making quality education and basic services accessible even to the poorest and marginalized sectors, and enhancing inclusive development in the country today.”
“We are pursuing the dream of building a future where every individual in the Bangsamoro region has access to quality education, economic opportunities, and an enabling environment in which to thrive,” he emphasized.
Prof. Erwin Protacio, Director of the Office of Extension and Community Service of UP Mindanao, presented what the UP-BARMM Institute Stakeholders’ Forum had already accomplished.
Dr. Leo DP. Cubillan, UP Vice President for Academic Affairs, presented the program’s Concept Note that was created by the Bangsamoro technical working group (TWG).
Expert resource persons also reported what their respective institutions could contribute to BARMM. These would include platforms for capability building and sharing of expertise to address the many issues and challenges on education, health, agriculture and fisheries, labor and employment, science and technology, human settlements and development, indigenous peoples’ affairs, and many others.
Responses from Bangsamoro government officials
In response to the UP initiative, Hon. Abdulkarim T. Misuari, BTA Member and Deputy BTA Parliament Speaker, expressed his gratitude to UP and everyone who attended the meeting. He said that “it is about time. . . . it is never too late to start right,” as he explained the importance of education in the development of every individual and in sustaining peace and progress in the country.
“Knowledge comes first,” he said, emphasizing that actions should be based on education. “Education is the best start,” he added, signaling the readiness of the Bangsamoro to collaborate with SUCs.
MSU System President Basari D. Mapupuno conveyed the collective excitement of the MSU System in this transformative journey with UP and BARMM. He also highlighted the programs, contributions and role of MSU in Mindanao.
Palawan Mamaon, the representative of the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA), also thanked UP for helping the Bangsamoro in addressing the many problems in BARMM. He also talked about the Bangsamoro Development Plan 2023-2028 and the need for research to be translated into outputs beneficial to the communities.
Hon. Akmad A. Brahim, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy, expressed his thanks to UP scientists who could help the Bangsamoro.
Ministers and representatives from the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Tourism, and the Ministry of Labor and Employment, as well as UP Visayas Chancellor Clement C. Camposano also shared their ideas during the open forum.
To close the event, UP Executive Vice President Jose Fernando T. Alcantara called for the convening of the TWG to discuss the eventual creation of the Bangsamoro Development Institute with UP, MSU and BARMM working together.
Among UP’s academic and research institutions to be involved in the program are: UP Resilience Institute; UP National Center for Transportation Studies; UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies; UP National College of Public Administration and Governance; UP Manila National Institutes of Health; UP Cebu Center for Environmental Informatics; UP Mindanao Center for Advancement of Research in Mindanao; UP Los Baños National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology; Philippine Genome Center; UP Institute of Islamic Studies; UP Baguio Cordillera Studies Center; UP Mindanao Studies Center; and UP Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts.
The program will have an Advisory Board with members from UP and BARMM.