Doug Cunningham: What is the role or vocation of the Redemptorist Mission Team in Mindanao, and particularly here in Mahayag?
Karl Gaspar: Our role is to support local church efforts to organize Basic Ecclesial Communities that respond to all aspects of people's lives. Where there are issues that impact people's lives, we respond. Here in Mahayag the government is building a hydroelectric dam without local input.
Such a vision of development, which relies on initiation from the top with little consideration of people's input, is harmful. It copies an industrialization scheme that is being critiqued as non-sustainable because it destroys the ecology and marginalizes people who are on the periphery. It duplicates a Western model of industrialization that relies on
loans, so it will add to our [national] debt. It delays further implementation of land reform. Resources go to infrastructure and not toward meeting the concrete needs of people, such as health, education, and the like.
Cunningham: What are the concrete steps that would propel Mindanao and the Philippines toward a kind of development that would really improve people's standard of living?
Gaspar: First of all, there should be a push for implementation of existing land reform laws. Second, we need to improve farm-to-market roads, provisions for credit, people's earning capacity, alternatives for agricultural productivity that maintain soil fertility, and the health care delivery system, and to get the people to be active participants-not just objects of assistance.
Instead of dams and big technology projects from the West, we should explore intermediary technology that works, respects the ecology, is within the capacity of people to run and operate, and responds to their basic needs-like small farm machinery, water-powered rice mills, things that make life more comfortable and convenient.