Two turnover ceremonies were held in Mindanao on September 17 and 18, for projects implemented by the Japanese NGO “ICan.” Both projects were funded by the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines through the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects of the government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).
The first ceremony was held at Bia-o Primary School in General Santos City for the second phase of the project “Community Development Project with the Children of Indigenous Community in Mindanao” amounting to $240,693 (approximately P9.8 million pesos). The ceremony was attended by city mayor Ronnel Rivera, representatives from the Department of Education, community members, as well as staff members of the Embassy of Japan and ICan.
The project was gratefully welcomed by the B’laan and T’voli tribes who have been forced to live in the uplands, since education is now more accessible to their children.
The classrooms constructed at Bia-o Primary School are complete with desks, chairs and blackboards. The project aims to create an environment that is more suitable for indigenous children to accept their identity positively since they often suffer discrimination.
Another component of the project is the empowerment of SPG (supreme pupil government), capacity development of teachers on the education for indigenous children, enhancement of health in community level, and improvement of livelihood through production and sales of handcrafts.
The other ceremony was held at Datu Embak Mangansing Memorial High School in Pikit on September 18 for the project called “Peace Building Project through Education in Conflict Affected areas in Pikit, Mindanao (Phase 2),” amounting to $654,341 (P27 million). The ceremony was attended by Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Pikit mayor Muhyryn D. Sultan-Casi, BDA Central Mindanao Region general manager Hashim Manticayan, Pikit’s MNLF regional chairman Abdullah Sugaguil, Brig. Gen. Cesar Dionisio Sedilla Jr., Lt. Col. Ichairil, representatives from DepEd and the community, as well as staff members of the Embassy of Japan and ICan.
Pikit town in Cotabato Province has witnessed armed conflicts several times in the past with its residents forced to evacuate and thereafter return to their homes when the situation subsides. Although the children also return to school the educational environment is not conducive to learning. Under the ICan project, school buildings were constructed or renovated for Datu Embak Mangansing Memorial High School, Balabak Elementary School, and Balatikan Elementary School in Pikit. School furniture such as desks and chairs were also provided.
The said project also includes “School of Peace Training” for the students and teachers. In the training, the students learn how to overcome conflicts peacefully without resorting to violence and the teachers learn how to deal with children with trauma or stress. Another soft component of the project is Mindanao Children’s Congress, a forum for children from various ethnic groups in Mindanao to build confidence with each other and discuss the future of Mindanao.
The Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects started in the Philippines in 2002. Since then, the Japanese government has disbursed approximately P256 million for a total of 33 projects in the Philippines. Japan believes that this project will strengthen not only friendship between the peoples of Japan and the Philippines but also the existing strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines.