12-M euro Mindanao dev?t fund went to health program

The fund, committed in earlier this year by the European Commission to the Mindanao Trust Fund, was supposed to be used to stabilize communities in conflict-affected areas and resettle displaced persons to help Mindanao once a final peace agreement is signed.

Ambassador Jan de Kok, head of Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines, said the fund has been diverted to boost the government's health reform project under the Department of Health as its Mindanao Health Sector Policy Support.

Thelma Gecolea, an EC public affairs officer, told MindaNews the fund is still with the European Union with the details still being decided upon.

De Kok said the signing of the peace agreement was a condition for the release of the fund. The peace efforts got about a third of the EU's 90 million euros aid to Mindanao over a number of years, he said.

But he said the European Union has since pledged another 12 million euros to the MTF "following further progress with the peace negotiation" . "It will be included in next year's budget," he added.

Government peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza and de Kok said Friday that even before the signing, capacity building and organizational setup projects have been on the roll.

The two officials launched the Rapid Response Mechanism in Mindanao project in formal rites at the Marco Polo Hotel here Friday.

The EU announced it will release 1 million euros for the project as its initial contribution to the MTF this year, even before the peace pact is signed. He said it will be used either to upscale existing pilot projects or open new pilot areas for peace-building projects.

Apart from the EU's contribution, around US$2.74 million has been earmarked for the initial phase with US$ 369, 850.00 (Australia), US$ 643,005.00 (Canada), US$ 199,978 (New Zealand) and US$ 1,525,000 from the World Bank.

The projects initially prioritized for the phase are coconut driers in Barangay Sapad, Matanog, Maguindanao; tire path in Barangay Sungayan, Dinas, Zamboanga del Norte; livelihood training center in Barangay Baguindan, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan; Barangay Pacalundo, Baloi, Lanao del Norte; Barangay Lucatan, Tarragona, Davao Oriental and warehouse and solar dryer in Barangay Malisbong, Palembang, Sultan Kudarat.

The MTF was established in 2005 by the World Bank amid calls from the government for aid to Mindanao in case the agreement is signed. It will focus on providing grant funding to conflict-affected areas.

Dureza said they will make initial preparations by providing capacity building to the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the office eyed to lead the implementation of the MTF projects.

A full program will be implemented in the final phase once the peace agreement is signed. Grants will be released to finance projects like technical assistance, expansion of capacity-building, and a gradual transfer of management to a governing entity.

With the exploratory talks stalled since September, the peace panels have not yet identified the entity referred for now as the BJA or the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

De Kok clarified, however, that they did not wish to rush as they want to
give the aid after the signing of a peace pact to ensure that the projects would be sustained.

The EU said the initial 1-million euro fund was released to recognize the efforts of both the government and the MILF to adhere to the ceasefire agreement and to pursue a sustainable peace agreement.