• EU expands grant to Mindanao

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    The European Union (EU) has expanded its support for peace in Mindanao by granting an additional P450 million (EUR 8 million) to contribute to the economic and social recovery of its conflict-affected communities.

    The EU and the World Bank on Monday signed an agreement that formalizes the expansion of EU’s contribution to the Mindanao Trust Fund- Reconstruction and Development Programme (MTF-RDP).

    The additional funding brings the total EU contibution to the MTF to EUR 13.5 million, more than 50 percent of the total Trust Fund and making he EU its biggest donor.

    The contribution will support the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the joint development program of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); as well as the Bangsamoro Development Planning, Presidential  Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles  said in her speech.

    These initiatives that are being supported by this new infusion of fund indicate that the peace process with the moro rebels is “entering a new phase, she said.

    Both panels of the government and the MILF are now down to a few remaining  issues of the annexes of the Framework Agreement.

    The two remaining annexes and the other two completed annexes—he transitional arrangements and modalities and wealth-sharing—as well as the Framework agreement will comprise the comprehensive peace agreement that both parties hope to forge before the end of the year.

    The comprehensive deal will provide for the creation of a Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    The peace adviser said that both parties “have begun the work more earnestly together on matters directly related to development efforts, which shows the commitment of both sides to make sure that the benefits of the agreements forged the negotiating table, will be immediately felt by the communities on the ground.”

    “The Filipinos continue to be a hopeful and resilient people with you, the European Union and its member countries, as friends on our side,” she said.

    “We are thankful and look forward to a strengthened and sustained partnership that will make this administration’s vision of a just and lasting peace for a progressive Mindanao a reality,” Deles added.

    For his part, EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs assured the EU stands ready to assume its role of responsible partner in delivering a peace dividend to the Mindanao population.

    These additional funds are “tangible manifestation of the EU’s long-term commitment” for the Mindanao peace process he said.

    “As the Philippines economy grows rapidly and the peace talks in Mindanao progress, the EU will continue to support the Philippine government and the Mindanao people in the pursuit of inclusive peace and sustainable development in this important region of the country,” Piebalgs said.

    “Our wishes are that the peace process could continue on a smooth path to achieving a lasting peace for Mindanao,” he added. CATHERINE VALENTE

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