UN program extends P14M assistance to conflict areas in Region 12

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/17 June) – The ACT for Peace Program of the United Nations and the Philippine Government has provided P14.3 million in assistance to conflict-affected villages in at least four towns in Southwestern Mindanao.

The assistance has complemented the efforts of the Philippine government and the non-government organizations (NGOs) for early recovery of eight villages affected by armed skirmishes in the towns of Aleosan, Tulunan, and Midsayap in North Cotabato and in Maasim in Sarangani province in Region 12.

Secretary Jesus Dureza, national director of the ACT for Peace Program, said that a total of 764 families from barangays Tapudoc and Dungguan in Aleosan; Damatulan and Lumopog in Midsayap; Maybula, New Bunawan and Kanibong in Tulunan, all in North Cotabato; and Lumasal in Maasim, Sarangani were affected by the armed fighting after the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) in August 2008.

The document consisted of statements agreed upon by consensus between the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that dealt with concepts and principles, territory, resources, governance of the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro.

Reports from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) showed that the August 2008 war  affected 396 barangays in Region 12, 58 of which were in North Cotabato and 12 in Sarangani. This is not counting those affected in Lanao del Norte, particularly those in the town of Kolambugan and Kauswagan.

“The assistance will help foster good relationship among residents, Christians and Muslims, and help provide new perspectives on issues affecting us,” Tulunan Mayor Lani Candolada said during the turnover of checks to implementing partners held last week.

“The success of this effort is not much on what we received but on its impact on the attitude of people,” she added.

Candolada said that 80 percent of the conflicts in her town, mostly land disputes, were addressed through constant dialogue between the residents, local government officials of nearby towns in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, government agencies and the military.

Dureza said the package of assistance includes construction or repair of 100 shelter units, construction or renovation of barangay health stations, reconnection of electricity for 100 houses (through solar system), livelihood assistance, training on basic carpentry with provision of tools, conduct of culture of peace sessions and psychosocial activities, and support to communal food security initiatives like bio-intensive gardening.

The kind of assistance extended to the affected villages were based on the results of the needs assessment study conducted in every community, which has also become the basis of its early recovery and rehabilitation plan.

At least 25 core shelters will be constructed in Barangay Maybula where 39 houses were reportedly burned in August 2008 while repair of 75 houses will be done in seven other barangays.

Dureza has called on both the public and private sectors to help provide an “enabling environment” for the internally-displaced persons to return to their communities.

“The bakwits cannot do it alone. It is the obligation of the government with the support of the private sector to come around and help them,” he said.

The initiatives in these eight barangays will be implemented through a tripartite partnership with respective provincial governments, partner-NGOs and the ACT for Peace.

The Early Recovery Program involves multi-dimensional process guided by peace building and development principles in providing humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance for internally-displaced persons and their communities.

It aims to support government, donors and non-government organizations to generate self-sustaining and resilient processes for post-conflict recovery.

The partner-NGO of the GOP-UN Act for Peace Program for Tulunan and Maasim is the Maguindanaon Development Foundation, Inc. For the barangays of Midsayap and Aleosan, it is the United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc. The project is supported by Australia, New Zealand, Spain and European Union and is implemented by the Mindanao Development Authority in partnership with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Government.

Aside from the eight barangays, the program is sustaining support to 278 peace and development communities, 24 of which were affected by the 2008 armed conflict. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)