PIKIT, North Cotabato: The Japanese government will push its assistance to the interior villages of Pikit by constructing modern school buildings in conflict areas.
Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa, in a statement, said his government is determined to construct “schools of peace” in Datu Bitol Mangansakan memorial High School and Mapagkaya Primary School with a total budget of Php2.5 million.
The recent skirmishes involving rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) had displaced 1,982 families or 10,664 persona, more than 2,000 of whom were school children.
Ishikawa and ICAN Philippines Country Director Yukiyo Nomura signed the grant contract for the project on Capacity Building Project on Peace Education and Conflict Resolution in Bangsamoro Communities of Mindanao at the Embassy of Japan on February 25.
In a statement, the Japanese embassy said the project amounting to USD 575,692 (approximately 2.5 million pesos) is funded through the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects, a small-grant funding program of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Pikit has been the site of many skirmishes between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and school children, sadly, were the most vulnerable victims.
Many of the children have suffered psychological wounds. In addition, a lot of them have no access to schools due to insufficient school buildings. The lack of education in the area creates a drag on building peace.
Ishikawa said this project aims to introduce peace education through the construction of two “schools of peace.” It is expected that this project will contribute to the peace and stability in the area.
The Japanese NGO, ICAN, has been working to improve the lives of children in crisis situations mainly in the Philippines since 1994.
ICAN has been working to improve the livelihood of indigenous people in southern Mindanao and in General Santos City by building schools, providing training and workshops in different fields, such as education and health.
Japan believes that this project will strengthen not only friendship between the people of Japan and the Philippines, but also the existing strategic partnership between the two countries.
The two schools of peace in Pikit are expected to be completed by May in time for the opening of 2015-2016 school year. PNA