Speaker: Richmond, J. (Impl. Project)
Date: 15 July 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Mr. Justin Richmond (Impl. Project) as a part of its SMA INDOPACOM Speaker Series. Mr. Richmond first explained that the Implementation “Impl.” Project establishes data ecosystems to assess, monitor, and evaluate social health and cohesion. Moreover, the Impl. Project addresses the underlying systematic causes of instability by conducting large community perception surveys and determines how to help communities increase their resiliency. The Impl. Project chose Pagayawan in Lano del Sur as its area of focus in 2018. After ISIS’s defeat in Marawi, remnants of the group found safe haven in local rural municipalities, particularly Pagayawan. The Impl. Project sent a team to data map and conduct surveys in this area in order to determine how vulnerable it was. The team looked at out of school youth in particular. Mr. Richmond explained that lack of education, lack of livelihood, and lack of infrastructure were the top grievances among youths. The Impl. Project also discovered that there is no legitimate governance in these small, remote municipalities. Furthermore, Pagawayan out of school youths trust NGOs and terrorist groups, particularly ISIS, rather than their government, to solve their problems because: 1) ISIS represents their faith/beliefs, 2) ISIS pays well, 3) ISIS presents an opportunity for leadership, and 4) these youths “have nothing better to do.” Mr. Richmond then listed the Impl. Project’s three recommendations for engaging out of school youth: 1) offer livelihoods support for a better future, 2) provide basic infrastructure and government services, and 3) set up hoses and clean water sources. Due to a combination of interstate programming and government solutions, Mr. Richmond stated that Pagayawans felt that their government was addressing their concerns and consequently pushed ISIS out of their community. To conclude, Mr. Richmond briefly discussed the Impl. Project’s work on countering China’s influence in the Philippines. He stated that understanding each region of the Philippines’ demography and history is key to countering PRC influence throughout the country as a whole, and the US government should use popular outrage (about the PRC’s discrimination against Uighurs, in particular) and interests to offset the large but exclusive investments by PRC in the Philippines.