THE Australian government has pledged more support for development projects in Mindanao.
In a reception for journalists earlier this week, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely announced a major education development program that will be rolled out this year that will run for nine years.
Canberra has been providing assistance towards building the foundations for economic growth in the southern island through investments in education, among others.
The education sector enjoys 34 percent of the Australian aid budget to the Philippines, valued at $23 million.
“We are already doing a lot in Mindanao, but now, with this administration, the focus has shifted already more to that part of the Philippines. I have officers from the embassy travelling there to Mindanao for various purposes,” she said in a speech.
Australia has partnered with the Philippine government on education development since the 1950s when Filipino scholars under the Colombo Plan studied in Australia.
“We are also supporting the peace process, that’s something that the Duterte administration put a lot of priority on. We certainly support the efforts of the administration to achieve peace in Mindanao and carry out various activities in support of those goals. Counter-terrorism is also an area of cooperation and of course the purpose of that is in Mindanao. And we are also looking for more commercial opportunities and ways that we can support economic development there,” Gorely added.
Meanwhile, the diplomat said she and President Rodrigo Duterte have already “moved on” from last year’s campaign brouhaha when she condemned Duterte’s remark on the rape and death of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill during a 1989 jail riot in Davao City.
“What a pity. What came to my mind was, ‘They raped her, lined up for her.’ I was mad because she was raped? Yes. That’s also one. But she was so beautiful. The mayor should have been first,” Duterte said in Tagalog.
Gorely said she had already talked and settled her differences with Duterte.
“My courtesy call on the President was really a great opportunity to sit down for a moment with him and to focus on the future of the bilateral relationship, trade between Australia and the Philippines,” she said.
“The President and I were both reacting at the terrible death for Jacqueline Hamil experienced here in the Philippines. We’re both appalled by that. And even though we have different ways of expressing that, we’re coming from the same place and we’ve moved on from that and we focused on the future about bilateral relationship,” Gorely said.