SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/5 March)— The peace panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met here Tuesday, this time not to sit on the negotiating table but to witness the presentation of the initial dividends of peace gained under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program.
Thousands of individuals within and outside the envisioned Bangsamoro region have already benefited from this socio-economic development partnership between the GPH and the MILF.
GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer and MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal led the ceremony for the symbolic presentation of Sajahatra Bangsamoro beneficiaries at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) at Crossing Simuay here.
Foreign truce monitors under the Malaysian-led International Monitoring team and representatives of foreign aid agencies such as the World Bank witnessed the service presentation ceremony for Sajahatra Bangsamoro, whose components include health, education and livelihood.
Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a socio-economic development partnership between the government and the MILF launched early last year also at the BLMI.
President Benigno S. Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim graced the launching as they both considered Sajahatra Bangsamoro as their brainchild.
Ferrer reiterated the President’s commitment to the peace process, noting the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the GPH-MILF final peace deal, will be signed within the month.
She lauded the achievement of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program and stressed the important role it has played in the peace process.
“The Sajahatra Bangsamoro is important as a channel of everyone’s hope. We don’t want our children to fail. We want them to be the first to feel for what, for whom the peace process is because they are the hope of their country, their family, their community and the Bangsamoro. Education, health and livelihood, these are everybody’s aspirations for themselves, for the children,” Ferrer said in Filipino.
Pushing for wider support to the GPH-MILF peace process, Ferrer reiterated it is inclusive to all.
“All of this will give life to everyone’s hope to partake of the dividends of peace. Insha Allah, nobody shall be left behind – women, men, old and young. These are for all and not just for some. Let’s help together. Let us nurture this agreement. Let us not fail those who pin their hope on this, let us continue our concern and sharing,” she said.
For his part, Iqbal described the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program as a historic partnership between the GPH and the MILF.
“It is but morally upright and for every practical reason that we value and nurture this partnership between the government and the MILF,” he said.
Iqbal said Sajahatra Bangsamoro is President Aquino’s concrete socio-economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of MILF communities.
“The MILF agreed to this project with the firm belief that this is in support of the peace process and not in any way similar to the previous government’s initiative, which were solely counter-insurgency. And we are seeing indeed that this is not the kind of thing that we dreaded before,” he added.
At a press conference after the presentation ceremony, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo noted that Sajahatra Bangsamoro was undertaken as a confidence-building measure of the government and the MILF for the peace process.
“While the projects under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro are part of the government’s regular programs, it is a special project because it is a partnership forged by the government and the MILF to improve the lot of people in MILF communities as the peace process moves on,” he said.
Under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program, the identification of individual or group beneficiaries is the responsibility of the MILF, Montalbo said.
So far, 9,311 individuals were identified to benefit from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s medical coverage and five community health stations were committed for construction by the Department of Health as well as the provision of 10 community-based midwives and 50 barangay health workers.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development has identified 8,602 children for a 120-day supplemental feeding program as well as the endorsement of 2,952 persons for the cash-for-work program out of the 11,000 targeted beneficiaries.
The Department of Education has also identified 50 madaris for curriculum improvement, capability enhancement of administrators and teachers and improvement of basic infrastructure facilities.
The Commission on Higher Education has enrolled 639 college students in various state colleges and universities in the island.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is also eyeing to train 1,030 Bangsamoro beneficiaries, of which more than half have been identified already.
Under Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the Department of Agriculture also committed to provide farm-to-market roads and agriculture-related livelihood projects.
The 10 identified provinces under Sajahatra Bangsamoro are Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as well as Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental and Zamboanga Sibugay. (MindaNews)