COTABATO CITY: President Rodrigo Duterte vowed full support for development initiatives in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas as he launched the administration’s poverty alleviation and development agenda here.
Aside from the ARMM, Regions 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 10 (Northern Mindanao) and 12 (Central Mindanao) are covered by the Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda (CRDA).
The President said the assistance package includes scholarship grants for deserving students, reducing vulnerabilities of children from hunger and malnutrition, distribution of Philhealth cards, provision of farm inputs and fishing equipment to farmers and fisherfolk, electrification projects, and setting-up of water systems in the region’s poorest communities.
The CRDA focuses on anti-poverty projects that harness mainly resources from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and the Technology Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“We will pour development funds in Moro areas,” said Duterte in the vernacular noting that his priority in Mindanao is eradicating hunger, especially among children, and reducing the incidence of poverty.
Current statistics indicate that provinces in ARMM are on top of the list in terms of poverty incidence.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Sayyadi, together with local, regional and national officials, joined the President in the distribution and turn-over of the assistance packages to beneficiaries at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex on Saturday.
At the forefront of implementing the programs are 12 agencies of the government – Cooperative Development Authority, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, National Anti-Poverty Commission, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, National Food Authority, National Youth Commission, Office of the President-Presidential Action Center, Philippine Commission on Women, Philippine Coconut Authority, Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
With the President were Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, and TESDA Director General Guiling Mamondiong.
There are resources, Duterte added, that could be harnessed immediately, mentioning Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol’s report that a significant number of tractors and other farm and fishery equipment are just gathering dust in government warehouses. Such equipment could not be released to target beneficiary cooperatives in recent years due to problems in raising the required counterpart fund.
“Why come up with a program for the poor that needs counterpart funding?” he asked, adding those beneficiaries don’t even have enough food to eat. “I’ll buy more for you but please take good care of those equipment, they were bought with money from the people.”
Duterte also mentioned the possibility of building a hospital in Jolo and in other areas in ARMM next year with funds coming from a private donation. While he did not mention the donor’s name, he said the amount is P1 billion and was originally offered to him as campaign fund before the elections. It was offered again recently and the president said he will accept it this time to be used for new hospitals in ARMM.
The President did not utter any cuss word during his entire speech but he continued lambasting the US government and its ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg. The Philippines, he said, would survive even without American aid, adding the China and Japan have expressed support for his administration’s development efforts.
Duterte is the country’s first president from Mindanao. He visited for the first time the regional seat of ARMM in this city where he was warmly welcomed by local officials and employees at the sprawling Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex. The constituents gathered at the complex grounds waited patiently for the presidential chopper that landed at 5:40 p.m.