US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. went to Zamboanga recently to meet with youth groups and launch three new projects to promote good governance; improve education and maternal healthcare services for Mindanao residents; and offer new opportunities for Mindanao youth.
Thomas said that the launch of the projects reaffirms US commitment to support peace and stability in Mindanao.
“I am here today because I have faith in the powerful forces for positive change in Mindanao—and that’s everyone in this room,” he said at a ceremony at the Garden Orchid Hotel in Zamboanga City. “You are proof that opportunity exists, that hard work does pay off, that initiative can be rewarded, and that Mindanao can thrive.”
The three five-year projects—Enhancing Governance, Accountability, and Engagement ; MindanaoHealth; and Mindanao Youth for Development—were based on an assessment conducted by the Mindanao Working Group at the US Embassy in Manila. Group members traveled to six localities in Mindanao to hold discussions with representatives of national and local governments, the police and the armed forces, non-governmental organizations, local schools and universities, and the private sector. The discussions focused on the desire for consistent and reliable security; good governance; and education and job opportunities.
While in Zamboanga, Thomas held separate discussions with university students from the Sulu Archipelago benefiting from the US Ambassador’s Scholars Program and alumni of various US government youth programs, including the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, the Philippines Youth Leadership Program, and the Congressional Internship Program for Young Mindanao Leaders, a project of the US Agency for International Development-Philippines.