EU ambassadors inspect aid projects in Mindanao

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COTABATO CITY: Representatives of the European Union (EU) envoys paid a two-day visit to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to monitor EU-funded projects and reiterate the Union’s commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process.

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The delegation of diplomats from EU member-states led by EU Am–bassador Guy Ledoux was treated by ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia and other local officials to a lunch reception here.

On their arrival, Ledoux told reporters that “the EU is strongly supporting the peace process” between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

He also lauded both sides for signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 and completing the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in April 22 describing it as “essential for the Philippine’s economic and social development.”

“The works need to continue now . . .  this is a long period and the EU continues to support [it],” the EU Ambassador said.

According to Robert Leon, information officer of the EU delegation to the Philippines, the “EU is funding the project worth about P354-million implemented by the World Food Program.”

The EU has poured P9.5-billion development assistance into Mindanao since 1990, Leon added.

Secretary Alamia, for her part, briefed the delegates through a power-point presentation underscoring reforms in the imple–mentation of programs and projects that gained the trust  of the national government which never happened during the past administrations.

Among other highlighted reforms, Alamia cited the PAyapa at MAsaganang PAmayanan (PAMANA) program for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities, saying “even though there is a GPH-MILF peace process, we have issues with the MNLF.”

“Because of the increase of trust and confidence . . . they [the national government]downloaded P1.5 billion [in 2013]for roads and infrastructure, soft-infra and livelihood programs for the MNLF communities,” Alamia said.

“In the previous programs for the MNLF, the budgets were down–loaded to the MNLF commanders and I hope that this would not happen in the Bangsamoro for the MILF,” she said.

“The development did not trickle down to the MNLF commanders, the combatants, that is why, we see all discrepancies until now,” Alamia said.

The secretary also cited reforms in carrying out infrastructure projects, saying the current ARMM administration scrapped allocations for road re-gravelling, which she described as a source of past corruptions.

“If we connect all of roads that have been re-gravelled, we’re going to reach the moon,” Alamia told the ambassadors, drawing laughter in the conference room.

The ARMM has a total of 992 kilometers of national highways. More than 750 kilometers of them have been paved and the remainder will be concreted by the end of 2014, according to Engr. Emil Sadain, regional public works secretary.

Infrastructure, agriculture and socio-economic development projects in the ARMM, some funded by the EU or its member-nations, would be completed according to their plans’ prescriptions and intents, Alamia added.

Ledoux said their delegation would meet MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim at his official headquarters in nearby Da–rapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao to discuss with him ways for the EU to enhance supports to the proposed Bang–samoro autonomous region.

On Saturday the delegates were scheduled to visit com–pleted projects to assess their  true benefits.

MOH I. SAADUDDIN

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