Since the 1970s, Mindanao has suffered from economic underdevelopment due to a cycle of deteriorating peace and order and limited development and public investment. Despite its comparative advantages for agriculture and other industries, the region includes many of the poorest provinces in the Philippines.
Following decades of armed conflict and political turmoil in Mindanao, the Philippine government and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiated several projects to promote peace and development in the region.
In 1995, USAID selected WSP to carry out the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, a multi-faceted program designed to support the peace process and stimulate equitable economic growth through infrastructure development, business growth, workforce preparation, governance improvement and former combatant reintegration.
The GEM Program is now in its third phase under the management of WSP. Since 2011, it has also served as an implementing partner to USAID in its disaster relief operations, rehabilitation and climate change adaptation strengthening in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Program achievements include:
- Providing emergency livelihood assistance to over 28,000 former combatants.
- Constructing 1,600 infrastructure projects, including airport runways, roads, bridges, boat landings, water systems, market buildings and post harvest facilities, benefitting over three million residents.
- Enhancing workforce development, competitiveness and access to employment in high growth sectors, benefitting more than a million students, graduates and teachers in over a thousand schools.
- Equipping hundreds of business support organizations, including chambers of commerce, business councils, producer associations and cooperatives to build and sustain economic growth.
- Promoting industry best practices and advancing the competitiveness and supply chain skills of Mindanao firms, helping to significantly increase production volume and exports of higher-value agriculture and aquaculture commodities.
- Assisting 12 municipal governments to improve revenue generation.