DEVELOPMENT projects worth P49.7 million in an Indigenous Peoples (IP) domain broke ground in Maguindanao on June 14.

Minister Melanio Ulama of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said the projects intend to erase the misconception that IPs are second-class constituents in the region.

"This is to bring the government closer to the people and that all should have equal access to government services as what BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim repeatedly emphasized," Ulama said.

He added that the Special Development Fund (SDF) projects will include a single-story tribal hall (P7.2-M), public market (P9-M), warehouse and solar dryer (P1.5-M), and 50 units of core shelter with solar-powered light and water system level 2 (P32-M).

The projects will be constructed in Kabinge village of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, a known ancestral land of Teduray IPs in the province.

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"These projects show our IPs are getting equal government services as in all other inhabitants of BARMM," Ulama said, stressing that IP communities affected by armed conflicts are among the beneficiaries.

Ulama said the projects are set for completion before the year ends.

Water infrastructure

Meanwhile, a water infrastructure project was installed benefitting more than 600 individuals from 200 households. The water project will prevent the threat of acquiring water-borne diseases after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) turned over the Community-managed Potable Water Sanitation and Hygiene (CPWASH) project in Libungan town, North Cotabato.

The DAR provided Kitubod village, the farthest community of Libungan, with a biosand filter, biogas digester, and rainwater catcher with an iron removal filter through the CPWASH Project costing about P160,000.

Charish Paña, Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer 2, said the CPWASH Project provides low-cost, culturally acceptable, and appropriate technologies to address the concerns on water supply, sanitation, and hygiene in areas with poor access to potable water supply like Kitubod village.

Paña added that with these interventions, the DAR is anticipating a positive change in the lives of the residents and improvement of the community in the future.

Kitubod village chairman Lucsim Ando expressed his gratitude to the DAR for bringing the CPWASH Project to their village, which will immeasurably benefit the residents.

"We have a lot of experiences with water-related diseases and illnesses here in our barangay (village) because we do not have access to potable water," Ando said.

Ando stressed that the residents are relying mainly on deep wells, hand pumps, and rainwater as the source of their drinking water despite knowing that it is not safe to drink. He also added that even though there are already incidences of amoebiasis, typhoid fever, and other water-related illnesses, they do not have any choice but use it to survive their daily activities.

He also thanked Libungan Mayor Aris Yu for the local government's support by providing equity to the project amounting to P60,000 which was used in purchasing additional construction materials.

The DAR has also trained 10 para-engineers in the community who will facilitate the replication of the bio-sand filter and biogas digester.

CPWASH Project Regional Pointperson Mustafa Bituanan said the bio-sand filter is made of a plastic container with carefully selected sand and gravel that serve as the strainer of bacteria, iron, and other impurities which make the water safe to drink.

Bituanan added that the biogas filter is a technology that uses animal waste as a source of gas when decomposed which could be used as a substitute for liquefied petroleum gas for cooking.

Moreover, the DAR installed the rainwater collector and iron removal filter at Kitubod Elementary School providing 330 students and 13 teachers with safe drinking water.