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UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES MINDANAO
AND HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
OF MINDANAO REGION

Dr. Rogelio V. Cuyno,
Dean, University of the Philippines Mindanao,
Davao City, Philippines

INTRODUCTION

On 23 September, 1994, the University of the Philippines President Emil Q. Javier called his Chancellors, Deans, and Directors from the university’s six campuses to an important meeting in the Board Room of the university in its campus in Diliman, Quezon City. The university administration was to meet with a former instructor in political science who is now a national figure. It was the first appearance of this former faculty member after he left the academe more than two decades ago to fight the government. He wedged a bloody and clever war using guerilla tactics both in the deep forest in Western Mindanao and the urban centers of Zamboanga and Cotabato, resulting in deaths of thousands of Filipinos from both the rebel groups and government side. This is not to mention countless innocent civilians who were either caught in the cross fire or became victims of kidnapping and terroristic acts which was part of the strategy of protracted revolution.

This extended war was very expensive for the government, sucking-in scarce national funds to buy equipment, supplies, ammunitions and maintain headquarters and battalions of enlisted men and officers. Such huge expenses (reported to be about P1M a day) could have been used to construct highways, farm to marker roads, ports, school buildings, telecommunication facilities, markets, and other facilities to encourage trade, commerce and the growth of industries.

This university visitor was Governor Nur Misuari. He came barely two weeks after he was elected governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is comprised of five Muslim populated provinces of Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Sur. A few days before he was elected governor, he signed a peace agreement with the government of the Republic of the Philippines, first in Jakarta, Indonesia, to end successfully two years of negotiation, and finally in Malacaņang Palace with no less than President Fidel V. Ramos signing the document.

I introduced this paper with a bit of contemporary history to provide a backdrop of the role of the University of the Philippines in general and its new campus in Mindanao in particular which is situated in Davao City, less than one hour by Airbus from our venue today.

In that meeting between university administrators and Governor Misuari and his advisers, both the University President and the Governor expressed the hope that with peace finally given a

chance to root, Mindanao can look forward to a planned development with Christians, Muslims, Lumads, and other Mindanaoans harvesting and enjoying the fruits of progress and prosperity.

UP President Javier stressed in his talk that education is the key to strategic solution to the problem of conflict in Mindanao and the slow progress in the region. Owing to the armed hostilities, disunity and mutual distrust between the government and the various Muslim groups, it was difficult to concentrate on putting in investments for building institutions of higher education and facilities for research. Muslim parents would rather send their children to places like Manila, Cebu, and even as far away as Egypt to obtain quality education because of a limited number of curricula options and because they wanted their children to be in an atmosphere where there is less tension and conflict while studying.

Governor Misuari himself sustained President Javier’s view by saying that it is part of the teaching of Islam that knowledge is a liberating force for human development and an effective agent of change in society.

UP MINDANAO: UP SYSTEM RESPONSE

In that fateful meeting, President Javier pledged to extend the vast intellectual and knowledge resources of the University to bring to bear on the development of the region in a climate where former rebels, government, and civilians who had been engaged in long strife, hatred and disunity, will now have a singleness of purpose - the development of the region. This must be done through assistance in the training of local government leaders, technology transfer and dissemination, institutional development, strengthening R&D capabilities, helping in the conduct of plans and studies for development, and increasing access to university education both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The establishment of the sixth and youngest university campus in the Mindanao Islands was justified on the basis of developing a critical mass of human capital through high standard and affordable higher education. As the oldest premier state university in the country with the highest concentration of scholars and highly trained faculty and intellectuals, UP is in the position to have a strong and influential presence in Mindanao.

Currently, out of the total 40,000 students of the University, only about 6.7 percent come from Mindanao. This is clearly inequitable considering that a quarter of the country’s citizens come from the region and the land area is one-third of the national land area. Furthermore, Mindanao is supplying food requirements of Luzon and the Visayas Islands and it produces the greatest bulk of export in agriculture.

13 June, 1996, was a historic date for both UP Mindanao and Mindanao. On this date, UP Mindanao, the newest addition to the UP System opened its doors to 85 new freshmen, with only one of them not coming from Mindanao and 77 graduate students. This is just one of the first steps in fulfilling the UP Mindanao vision: “to help find and locate Mindanao in the nation and the nation in Mindanao”.

HISTORY, MISSION, AND VISION

The establishment of UP in Mindanao was the culmination of a long-cherished dream. As early as the mid-50s, there were already clamors for the UP presence in the region. Through the years, repeated attempts were made to realize the dream. These were made possible through the untiring efforts of concerned UP alumni, parents, and political and civic leaders.

The UP in Mindanao will provide access to quality education at affordable cost to students from Mindanao. Its presence in the region will also emphasize its stature as the national university. Its thrusts will be attuned to the needs of the country’s second largest island (102,043 sq. km. or one third of the national land area) with its vast resources and enormous growth potentials.

UP Mindanao was established on 20 February, 1995, under Republic Act 7889. Its mission is to bring to the people of Mindanao the UP standard of academic excellence and commitment to academic freedom, social responsibility, and nationalism. It also aims to assist Mindanao in becoming an educational, cultural, commercial, and financial centre not only in the southern part of the country but also in the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) by democratizing educational opportunities and training the future professional and community leaders of the region.

UP Mindanao is envisioned to grow into a comprehensive university, a multi-functional institution of higher learning committed to instruction, research, and extension. As provided by RA 7889, its academic programmes shall put emphasis on science and technology, the medical and health sciences, the agricultural education so that it can assist the region in the improvement of the higher education sector, as well as, in the more general process of industrialization and nation-building.

With UP’s expertise and commitment to research, it shall promote and strengthen research in the region as it is also committed, through its extension programmes, to fully harness the human and natural resources of Mindanao so that the latter can assume a key role in the development not only of the country but of the entire ASEAN region.

As a constituent campus of the national University of the Philippines, UP Mindanao shall provide support to the national educational system through complementation and collaboration with the existing private and state-supported schools in the region.

UP Mindanao’s presence in the higher education sector of the region will be at three levels: model undergraduate programmes catering to a small and selectively admitted student clientele including those from the various Muslim and cultural communities; innovative graduate programmes attuned to the needs of the region using local expertise as well as those from other UP units; and short-term, certificate, or diploma courses to quickly develop or upgrade competencies and skills of professionals and education administrators in the region.

The decision to establish UP Mindanao was not dictated by short run considerations. It was inspired by a vision and conceived as far-ranging. Hence, the ultimate beneficiary for the decision will not only be Mindanao but the whole country, for Mindanao and the country are inseparable. As the UP Mindanao Task Force in the Arts and Sciences wrote in their report: “UP Mindanao must help Mindanao in the first instance, but simultaneously and ultimately for the whole nation’s advantage as well, to help find and locate Mindanao in the nation and the nation in Mindanao”.

Indeed, this realization by no less than the highest leadership of this country, President Fidel V. Ramos, that Mindanao could be the front, not backdoor of national development, became a major impetus for the establishment of UP Mindanao. The neglect of Mindanao in the past was a waste in opportunity and an example of national inequity.

“Locating Mindanao in the nation” will be realized only if Mindanao grows, reaches its potential, and become a vast breadwinner for the country. This achievement, however, is contingent on the development of the human resource. The human resource is the greatest multiplier of all forms of resource.

A related issue is brain drain. Mindanao’s best and brightest youth prefer Manila and Cebu to further their studies after high school and some after college. When these young people go out, seldom do they come home, resulting in a net loss to the region of the most precious resource. UP Mindanao hopes to mitigate this situation by providing the course option, high standard, and affordable quality education that is comparable with what can be found in Manila, Los Banos, Cebu or overseas.

Mindanao also has a depressing R and D. I don’t have the exact figure of research and technology outputs of the island but in a recent study, “Mindanao 2000,” one of the weaknesses identified was poor R and D. With its research and development tradition and commitment, UP Mindanao could help catalyze, strengthen, and generate interest in research. It can also acquire much needed facilities and infrastructure for research that can be shared with other researchers from other institutions.

With the attention given to Mindanao by the national government in terms of funds for infrastructure, campaign for investments, incentives and assistance to the small-to-medium businessmen, the opening of diplomatic and trade channels to a wider external market (the BIMP-EAGA) which is altogether numbering around 40 million people, with dynamic and responsive institutions of higher education and with technology innovations generated by R and D institutions, Mindanao will certainly be able to locate itself in the nation.

But this achievement will be meaningless if Mindanao drifts away from the nation. Hence, UP Mindanao will be active in integrating and fostering inter-dependence of the island with the rest of the country -- economically, politically and culturally.

THE MINDANAO SITUATION

Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines. Being outside of the typhoon belt, Mindanao enjoys a generally fair and tropical climate throughout the year with abundance and well distributed rainfall. Its generally fertile soil makes it suitable for a wide variety of crops and livestock. In fact, it is the major source of agri-based products such as fish, corn, banana, coconuts, and pineapple, among others.

Mindanao can boast of the following formidable assets and resources. First, its strategic location is close to the booming market of the Asia-Pacific and the emerging growth polygon of EAGA. Second, its 17 million people are of such cultural mix that becomes its major strength as it provides trade opportunities with the multi-cultural EAGA. These people are mostly migrants from Luzon and Visayas who are descendants of pioneering generations. Industrious and entrepreneurial, they are unspoiled by national subsidies and support. Third, it is endowed with extensive metallic and non-metallic mineral deposits with substantial gold and nickel reserves, and even with the strong possibility of oil deposits. And fourth, its 6 million hectare of forest land is the largest and richest forest resource in the nation.

However, Mindanao has remained stagnant and underdeveloped for a long time. The reason for this, according to the Mindanao 2000 report, is primarily due to the asymmetric Manila-centered development plans of past governments that concentrated on Manila which made Mindanao the food and raw material supplier to Manila and other urban centers of the country. Added to this are the regional political divisions which have further fragmented its development, the continuing conflicts between Muslims and Christians and with other cultural minorities, and the plantation enclaves and extractive industries which characterize the agrarian structure of the island.

Mindanao’s present economy is characterized by dominance of agriculture, limited agri-industrial coupling, industries that are natural-resource driven, a population that has low purchasing power, industries that are foreign-dominated and export-oriented, and dominance of a few landed families in each of the 23 provinces. (Mindanao BIDS 2010, Mindanao 2000, OP Mindanao reports, MEDCO reports).

But with favorable winds of change coming from the Ramos administration, the picture has changed. Mindanao is now at the epicenter of change. Infrastructure development like roads and other facilities are being undertaken at full blast as the economic grouping of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (the BIMP) that created the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) has put Mindanao clearly on the map. Moreover, the private sector is not left behind but has taken several initiatives in hastening Mindanao’s development.

As a new and dynamic area of economic growth premised on “common aspirations, ethnic commonalities, geographical proximity, complementary strengths and collective growth potentials” (Phil. statement on BIMP-EAGA, 26 March 1994) it is steadfastly blossoming into an East ASEAN Growth Polygon. The BIMP-EAGA concerns are: (1) expansion of air linkages; (2) joint tourism development; (3) expansion of services, and (4) the development of transport and shipping services. Other projects being identified for immediate implementation focus on: (1) people mobility; (2) environment; (3) energy; (4) construction and construction materials; (5) telecommunications; (6) human resources development; (7) agro-industry; (8) capital formation and financial services; and (9) forestry.

In the year 2000, therefore, Mindanao sees itself as a prosperous island with “highly motivated, self-reliant, culturally diverse but unified communities which are socio-economically dynamic with ample and appropriate opportunities for self-fulfillment within a framework of sustainable development and equitable growth” (“Discover Mindanao” brochure).

Nowhere in the Philippines is cultural plurality more evident and pronounced than in Mindanao. With a rich cultural heritage arising from ethnic pluralism that continually gives birth to the dynamic process of acculturation, enculturation, assimilation, and culture change, Mindanao looks ahead aware of its needs and resources as well as global trends and developments and strives to become the “educational, cultural, commercial, and financial centre not only of the southern part of the Philippines but also of the whole EAGA.”

ACADEMIC PROGRAMME OF UP MINDANAO

UP Mindanao now offers the following undergraduate and graduate programmes:

Graduate:
1) Master of Management, major in: 
* Agribusiness Management
* Development Management
2) Diploma in Computer Science (Joint programme of UP Los Banos and UP Mindanao)
3) Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning (Joint programme of UP Diliman and UP Mindanao)

Undergraduate:
1) Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing)
2) Bachelor of Arts in Social Science
3) Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics
4) Bachelor of Science in Biology

Open University (Distance Education Mode):
1) Master in Social Work and Community Development
2) Master in Hospital Administration
3) Diploma in Science Teaching
4) Diploma in Research and Development Management

UP Mindanao’s offerings are complemented by research, community service, and technical assistance in collaboration with the private sector, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other colleges and universities in the region.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The research and development agenda of UP Mindanao aims to holistically address the agricultural and natural resource problems of the region by recognizing them as a part of a system rather than as elements and processes separate and distinct from one another. Its R&D undertakings will be guided by prudent and developmental use of natural resources as well as sustainable management of the environment.

In all these efforts, UP Mindanao expects to work in consultation and collaboration with other colleges and universities in the region in recognition of their longer presence and valuable contribution to the development of human resources through professional and technical education for Mindanao.

INSIGHTS ON HUMAN RESOURCE PLANNING

UP Mindanao goes about its work not by impulsive adventurism and with a cavalier attitude, but by careful and judicious planning and extensive consultation with local government leaders and politicians, alumni, parents, education institutions, private and business sectors, and civic leaders. Within the University system, our President had created Task Forces composed of experts and administrators that are balanced by alumni who are leaders in industry and government to chart the vision and direction of our programmes.

Our focus is the development of a critical mass of high grade human capital. With the university’s limited funding and personnel, we thought it best to apply our resources to a few highly selected students with potential for leadership in government, business, education, community, and civic works.

These are the leaders who will create the necessary multiplier ripples, and generators of new ideas and energies resulting in social change and developmental transformation.

Recent literature, notably that coming out of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, now identify the critical factor in development as governance (or management). Using the tiger economies of Asia as illustrative cases, the bank-sponsored research indicates that it is neither ideology nor policy that facilitates development; it is actually the quality of governance and leadership. In essence, for development management to succeed, development of leaders must be pursued in earnest.

As Mindanao finally perks up after a long slumber which is a consequence of government neglect in the past, the need for professional education is felt. We are now going to basic economics that the human capital is the greatest of all multipliers of investment. As one leader in manpower planning development in the Philippines said:

“The old picture of the land of promise as abounding in natural resource is no longer true. The lessons of the Asian tigers, our developed neighbors, is that the competitive advantage is in human resources. The importance of a well-educated, skilled, disciplined, and motivated workforce is consistently underscored amidst a background of continuing rapid technological change, globalization, and an increasingly competitive world market. An educated and skilled labor force is able to adopt faster to the ever-improving technologies and thereby increase productivity level and worldwide competitiveness.”

Quoting from the same source as above, the government strategies for manpower planning and development in Mindanao is:

“One that will support the economic growth in terms of critical labor supply but specially in terms of creating added employment opportunities that will improve the quality of life of the people in the rat race world of international competitiveness. HRD efforts in Mindanao should continually contribute to the attainment of fundamental values of poverty alleviation and equal access to education and empowerment so that all citizens may participate in the process of economic growth and development of Mindanao.”

The long-term instrument we are using in the university so that we can dovetail with the government’s macro-view of development is through our curricula offerings, including continuing education for the labor force in the industries, government, services and other sectors. As mentioned already, our research for the moment will be R&D-oriented, such that our outputs will generate technological innovation that will drive productivity and economic prosperity.

On curriculum approach, many years back, educators and philosophers debated whether college education should be more for professional development or for liberal education. The two educational aims were thought of as being on opposite poles. That is, if the curriculum is slanted to general education, there is less professional training and vice-versa, if there is a bias for professional education, something is taken away from general education.

At the University of the Philippines this was resolved in the ’70s with the institutionalization of General Education courses. The GE courses reflect liberal education philosophy. Liberal education makes the individual a whole person, able to cope with multi-dimensional aspects of life -- relationship with natural environment, social life, economic well-being, cultural roots and identity, development and advances in science and technology, relationships with political-legal institutions, and contributing to political maturity and responsiveness.

Moreover, liberal education is training the person to be a life-long learner. It equips the person with analytical and descriptive tools as well as tools for observation, organization of observation, and then making decisions and judgments. In a way, learning to identify and solve problems in a scientific way.

In UP Mindanao, we view our curricula as somewhere in the middle of the continuum of general and professional education. Our aim is to prepare a person to be professional with continuing proficiency in his/her craft, and to be able to induce productivity and growth of the enterprise. At the same time, the person should be aware of and must internalize social and political responsibility, conservation and sustainability of natural endowment, and to have pride in his cultural heritage. He/she must not neglect to appreciate the finer things in life - the “good and the beautiful” -- and must contribute in making the surrounding a decent place to live in.

In the teaching of the craft or the tools, knowledge, and skills in the professions, we believe that the teaching must not only include content but must inculcate a liberal attitude to the person’s craft and that is being open-minded, creative, a problem-solver, and change agent.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, we are pleased to report that a year and eight months after its establishment, UP Mindanao has been moving at an unrelenting brisk pace in the process of institution-building. On closer analysis, its strategy in accomplishing this objective involves a combination of consultative and evolutionary approaches. UP Mindanao has accepted a wide variety of input from different concerned sectors and has started by building a solid foundation for the institution while hewing up the system’s long-range vision and mission regarding its next century of existence.

UP Mindanao will continue to uphold the cherished traditions of UP and its enabling charter, and is committed to meet the expectations of its founding leaders as well as the people of Mindanao. As an institution built in a region that has just been made a front door to the country’s economic development with the creation of the BIMP-EAGA and mandated to “locate Mindanao in the nation and the nation in Mindanao,” UP Mindanao has a crucial role to play both in Mindanao and the nation. Thus, in the fulfillment of this role and in the implementation of its plans and programmes, it has chosen to be guided by the policy of thinking and feeling Mindanao.

 

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