Japan to give fresh aid to Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 March) – Amid efforts to recover from the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake that spawned 10-meter high tsunami, Japan’s development work in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao would continue with the release of fresh grants worth around P36.3 million, the Japanese embassy assured Wednesday.

In a statement, the Japanese embassy said that while it struggles with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, Japan continues to support the development of conflict affected areas in Mindanao under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development, or J-BIRD.

To stress Japan’s continuing assistance to Mindanao, Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura is set to sign nine grant contracts for various social development projects in Mindanao on Friday at the Astoria Plaza Hotel in Metro Manila.

“These projects are the fifth batch of assistance under the J-BIRD funded through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects,” the envoy said.

Katsura thanked the Filipino people for the sympathies and condolences they extended to the Japanese people in the aftermath of the disaster.

He said the new package of assistance will form part of Japan’s commitment to supporting peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

The package, worth $838,606, includes the construction of five school buildings, two training centers, a floating school, and a post-harvest facility.

Since the launching of the J-BIRD, Japan has supported 50 grassroots projects in the total amount of $3.8 million or P217 million, a briefer said.

The J-BIRD was launched in 2006 to pursue Japan’s commitment to the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Expected to grace the signing of the fresh grants are Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles; Luwalhati R. Antonino, Mindanao Development Authority chairman; and Major General Dato Mahdi Bin Yusof, head of mission of the International Monitoring Team.

Also invited to attend the event were GRP-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) chairman Brigadier General Reynaldo Ardo; MILF-CCCH Chairman Said Sheikh, Bangsamoro Development Agency executive director Mohammad Shuaib Yacob, and Japan International Cooperation Agency chief representative Norio Matsuda.

Also in assistance to the Mindanao peace process, Japan has dispatched two socio-economic development experts to the IMT.

In addition, Japan is a member of the International Contact Group, which performs such roles as giving advice to the parties concerned on the Mindanao peace process and participating in peace talks as observers.

Katsura reiterated that Japan, as a strategic partner of the Philippines, strongly supports the efforts to end the long-standing conflict between the government and the MILF.

“[Japan] hopes that peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF will come up with a negotiated and peaceful settlement to end the decades-long armed conflicts and to enable the people to enjoy the dividends of peace,” he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)