The pandemic-postponed annual Kusog Mindanaw conference took place virtually for the first time in 26 years last 18-22 October 2021. This year’s theme is “Co-Creating the Kusog Mindanaw Agenda in the 2022 Elections.”


The conference also recognized the works and profound contributions of the departed Kusog Mindanaw pillars, including the late former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., former Cotabato Governor Rosario “Cha” Diaz, Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado Jr., Rey Magno Tevez, Atty. Solema Jubilan and Dr. Mahid Mira-Ato Mutilan.


Kusog Mindanaw is a platform of dialogue among Mindanao leaders and thinkers since 1995. Its advocacy has focused on the region's equitable share in the budget and representation in national government, good governance, inclusive growth, and sustainable peace and development.


Kusog Mindanaw conveners made up of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE), Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and this year’s conference chair, Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc. (BMFI) delivered the opening remarks.


This year’s conference according to IAG Executive Director Atty. Benedicto Bacani aimed to “reposition Kusog Mindanaw as an inclusive and broad platform to advance Mindanao’s agenda for peace and development.”


BMFI President Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig said he was “deeply humbled and honored to be asked to Chair this conference. I initially hesitated to accept this challenge but eventually relented as I realized that this is an opportunity for me to thank and honor the Kusog pillars, two of my mentors Rey Magno Teves and Fr. Jun Mercado.”


MINCODE Chairperson Patricia Sarenas urged the participants to “continue to explore the different experiences and perspectives within the solidarity of our shared struggles in Mindanao as a group of people in a position to do something for women and men everywhere in this island. The struggle to understand the specific problems we confront highlights our differences. And solidarity comes through the development of an analysis that reveals the common structural origins of these different problems, providing us with a basis for the kind of collective action that will strengthen our partnerships across the regions and the other barriers that for now keep us apart.”


For her part, PCID President Amina Rasul-Bernardo enjoined the participants to reflect on the time of Mindanao under President Rodrigo Duterte, the first Mindanawon president, whose term is ending in a few months. “How have we fared, in terms of national government support? Is the share of resources received by Mindanao equitably distributed among the regions? What are the critical issues that remain unresolved? Is a just peace and ideology based radicalized groups? Can we come to a consensus on these issues and unite, as we had in the past, to lobby the national government?” she asked.


For Prof. Dr. Stefan Jost, the representative in the Philippines of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), the Kusog Mindanaw 2021 agenda on “Federalism and Equitable Wealth and Power Sharing”, “Governance, Peace and Security”, “Economy and Infrastructure” and “Climate Change, Environment and Health” are “central topics for the future development of the Philippines, topics on which IAG and other partners of KAS have been working intensively for many years”.


“Next year's presidential elections are casting their shadows ahead. Against this background, this year's Kusog Mindanaw also has a particularly ambitious program with a view to these elections”, he said.


The KAS has supported Kusog Mindanaw since the 1990s. KAS has been active in the Philippines since the early 1960s, since 1964 to be exact. Ever since 1998, the main activities of the KAS in the Philippines have focused on Social Market Economy, Institutional and Political Reform, and Peace and Development in Mindanao.


The roster of presenters and speakers included Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Atty. Randolph Parcasio of the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution, Commissioner Bai Norhata Alonto of the Social Security System,  Ms. Grace Rebollos of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, International Alert Advisor Francisco “Pancho” Lara Jr., PCID President Ms. Amina Rasul-Bernardo, former National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner  Edtami Mansayagan, National Economic & Development Authority (NEDA) Region X Director Mylah Faye Aurora B. Cariño, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Deputy Executive Director Romeo Montenegro, NCIP (Office on Education, Culture and Health) Bureau Director Ferdausi S. Cerna, NCIP Dev’t Management Officer Carmelita Basbasan De Silva, Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire and Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar “Oca” Moreno.


The conference also heard solidarity messages from longtime Kusog Mindanaw friends and allies, Deputy House Speaker Congressman Mujiv Hataman and former Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III. IAG Executive Director Ms. Mary Jacqueline Fernandez provided the ways forward to close the conference.