The former site of the Padian now transformed into a peace park and a sports stadium, yet eerily devoid of people. Taken on March 27 by John Lee Candelaria.

Promoting Local Business for Marawi’s Rehabilitation and Peace


Business for peace (B4P) studies have identified how business activities contribute to peace. Marawi's reconstruction calls for business engagement that will support the pride and dignity of the local Maranao people.

Six years have passed since the five-month siege of Marawi City in southern Philippines, a debilitating conflict between the Philippine government forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State (IS). In March 2023, we travelled to the city to see the state of its rehabilitation. We visited the city’s once bustling commercial zone, known by the locals as MAA, or most affected area.

Although roads have been reconstructed, houses remain in disrepair, and the streets are nearly empty. The Padian central market and symbolic hub of the local Maranao people’s economy has been replaced by a stadium and urban park. The newly reconstructed smaller markets are not easily accessible; local businesses are slow to find their feet.

Typically, international organisations and aid agencies are sought out in reconstruction efforts. Numerous houses outside MAA have been rebuilt with the support of international donors, primarily through the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). However, many internally displaced people (IDPs) still reside in temporary settlements without access to basic necessities, such as clean water. This situation breeds discontent and isolation, creating fertile ground for radicalization, which was, ironically, among the reasons why groups in the city were attracted to the radical ideas propagated by the IS in 2017.

Businesses can also contribute to peace. While humanitarian assistance is necessary, the city’s sustainable rehabilitation lies in its economic revival. Agriculture has been suggested as a viable solution, according to some locals we interviewed for our research on the role of businesses in Marawi’s reconstruction. Engaging IDPs in agribusiness can be mutually beneficial as local production and supply chains promote interdependence and social cohesion. Currently, residents travel to neighbouring towns like Iligan (25 km away) and Cagayan de Oro (66 km away) for shopping, draining money from Marawi.

Infrastructure is also undoubtedly crucial for post-conflict recovery. The locals appreciate the Marawi Transcentral road built by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), but its economic potential remains untapped due to limited local production and manufacturing. Supporting entrepreneurship is essential for promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing aid dependency. As it stands, international aid to Marawi is decreasing, making local private sector activity even more vital to sustainable development.

Businesses possess the potential to promote peace since markets thrive on interdependence and communication between people.

The private sector’s engagement in peace has been encouraged by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s initiative through a platform called Business for Peace (B4P) which is aligned with the UN Global Compact. B4P activities would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and observing business and human rights (BHR) norms articulated in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Research on B4P usually lists five business contributions to peace: economic development, enhancement of the rule of law and external evaluation, community building, track two diplomacy, and conflict-sensitive practices and evaluation. This list is expanding, and there is increasing recognition that local and international businesses may play different roles. Local businesses can be agents for change through bottom-up local peacebuilding, following cultural norms. Transnational corporations, usually larger in size, may bring in significant capital and promote international standards such as transparency and gender equality.

Businesses are essential to empowering people affected by conflict and helping them regain dignity. The case of Marawi highlights the psychological contribution of businesses to peacebuilding, which is often overlooked in B4P literature. We encountered three inspiring local social entrepreneurs during our visit. One of them is Salika Samad, the founder of Maranao Collectibles. Despite being displaced to Iligan, she started a business producing langkit (a traditional Maranao weave) and related products. Salika takes pride in their handiwork, as her business helped fellow IDPs earn from their weaving skills, while their products showcased the beauty of Maranaos culture as a way to counter the unjust collective association of their community with terrorism. After all, building peace is not only about ending conflict, but also promoting coexistence, especially in multicultural communities.

Similarly, Jal Mustari of Aretes Style incorporates langkit into contemporary clothing and accessories, using peace as a unifying theme. Jal collaborates with traditional weavers and dressmakers, including IDPs, ensuring they receive a fair price for their work. For Jal, it is important to activate supply chains to drive local economic recovery, as businesses like his create a ripple effect within the community.

The last social entrepreneur we met in Marawi was Ammar Cayongcat, a university student and one of the founders of N’ditarun Tano, which applies pananaroon or traditional proverbs, traditional designs, and langkit on products such as T-shirts, polo shirts, and jumpers. The company’s name, meaning “this is ours,” reflects a commitment to preserving Maranao culture. N’ditarun Tano also dedicates a significant portion of its income to social projects, such as peace education and community outreach programs, ensuring that they contribute to the betterment of their community while sustaining their business.

These three local enterprises shore up Maranao pride despite the experience of intense urban warfare. During conversations in the city, locals expressed discontent over the government’s handling of the conflict, as they felt as if the cure was worse than the disease. One interviewee commented: “if there is a thief in your house, do you destroy the house to capture him? [Because] that’s what happened in Marawi.”

For peace to take root in Marawi, local efforts must be supported. The Muslim Mindanao regional government (BARMM) can design a proper reconstruction and development plan of Marawi including livelihood solutions for IDPs. The Philippine national government and donor agencies can enhance the capacity of small enterprises to facilitate their growth and connect them to the international market. Transnational corporations can support these efforts through trade and reviving the city’s commercial characteristics.

Businesses possess the potential to promote peace since markets thrive on interdependence and communication between people. Thus, through businesses, we can stand by the people as they attempt to rebuild their lives in Marawi or elsewhere affected by conflict.


Mari Katayanagi is a professor of the International Peace and Coexistence Program of Hiroshima University.

John Lee Candelaria is an assistant professor of the International Peace and Coexistence Program of Hiroshima University.