Southern Philippines

The Southern Philippines was riven by civil strife and guerrilla warfare – the Marcos regime fighting both Communist and Muslim insurgents. In the four years to 1977 some 18,000 people had been killed.

Kennedy Kunnang, a convert from Islam to Christianity was determined to make peace between the Mindanao Muslim and Christian populations. He asked CHIPS for help.

Working in the smuggler and pirate-ridden Sulu Archipelago, Kennedy established CHIPS vegetable-growing projects, providing vital food that supported the displaced and homeless in the region. Over the next 5 years numerous small agricultural initiatives – vegetable gardening, fruit growing and fish farming – helped many people to maintain food security in the face of widespread lawlessness and guerrilla warfare.

In 1988 we saw a new opportunity to bring the Mindanao communities together – fishing. By building a Malaysian ‘bagang’ – a wooden structure with a fishing net suspended beneath it – it would be possible to greatly increase the productivity of the local fishing communities.

Existing conflicts had been exacerbated by disputes over fishing rights, so this was a great chance to bring people together. CHIPS chose one representative from each of the major communities (Yakan, Tausug, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Muslim) to build a boat, which they named CHIPS. This was used to reach the bagang, built half a mile out to sea, with lights and a net suspended below the platform to attract fish at night. The catch was rowed ashore each morning, and then shared fairly between the five community groups.

The people from different tribes, denominations and faiths who had come together to build and utilise the platform, formed invaluable collaborative relationships and deep levels of trust were gradually built up.