Sajahatra Bangsamoro gets initial budget of P600M

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 May) – The government has initially earmarked P600 million for the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro (Peace Bangsamoro), Secretary Rene Almendras told reporters on Thursday.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a socio-economic initiative for Moro communities that focuses on education, health and livelihood through scholarship grants, assistance to madaris, issuance of Philhealth cards, basic health care services, livelihood projects and cash for work.

But Almendras, who chairs the government’s Joint Coordination Committee for Sajahatra Bangsamoro, clarified that they have yet to determine the allocation of the fund for every program.

The initiative, he added, is not an exclusive program for Moro communities. “It is an inclusive program. This is not just for one sector but it’s really reaching out others.”

Almendras further explained that once the Bangsamoro government is established, it will cover not just Moro communities but settlers and indigenous peoples as well.

“Even if we haven’t fully established this to the basic law, we are already doing the right thing, which is not just for one group but acknowledging the fact that running that autonomous government includes providing services for everyone,” he said.

For his part, Ustadz Muhammad Swaib Yacub, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s JCC for Sajahatra Bangsamoro, said they are glad that they have been given a chance to participate in delivering services to their people.

“We are now working as a partner to reach out the real beneficiaries. So that critics will have nothing to say that we are manipulating the assistance from the government,” Yacub added.

Almendraz cited that one of the components being prioritized now is the allocation for the scholarship grants for incoming college students in June.

The scholarship grants are not just offered exclusively for Moro college students but to Christians and indigenous peoples as well.

“Originally we were just looking at 500 scholars from over a thousand nominees from the MILF and took the exam. But it was increased from 500 to 639,” Almendras disclosed.

He clarified that the scholarship grant is the same as the scholarship program of the Commission on Higher Education. The government has provided a list of courses under the grant, he said.

The only difference is that most of the slots are offered to Moro students, he added.

But Almendras said the MILF has recommended some courses which they think are needed in their respective areas.

“The nice part here is, while you are producing graduates, we agreed that they will be given jobs inside the communities. For example, those who will take up education, when they graduate, they will be brought back to the communities. They will become the teachers of the schools that will be built,” he explained.

Yacub added that they would be giving 50 scholarship grants for Christian settlers and another 50 for indigenous peoples.

The rest would be given to the Moro communities, said Yacub, who is also the executive director of the Bangsamoro Development Authority.

“The scholars will be enrolling in the nearest state universities and colleges,” he said.

Aside from the college scholarship grants, Almendras said they are also discussing 500 scholarship grants under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The JCCs of both panels are in the city for a two-day meeting to iron out plans for the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

Launched in February, Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a product of the “one-on-one” talks in Malacanang between President Aquino and Murad immediately after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Almendras stressed that the Sajahatra Bangsamoro is not a short-term approach, saying that part of the implementation process is to conduct a needs assessment among the communities in order to identify the appropriate and sustainable livelihood program intervention.

Moreover, he disclosed that the initiative includes the construction of health centers, day care centers and enhancement of madaris.

But Yacub said the initiative does not include salaries for the ustadz who are teaching in the madaris.

“The form of assistance will depend on what they want. Could be infrastructure or anything that need in running the madrasah,” he told MindaNews in a separate interview. ( Keith Bacongco/Mindanews)