EU-WB projects in MILF camps bolster peace

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PIKIT, N. Cot. Philippines – Residents in this municipality see brighter prospect for peace to shine in a rebel sanctuary as the government

and Moro Islamic Liberation Front received multimillion development projects from the European Union and other donor partners.

“Indeed, encouraging to see us working together to attain our common goal,” said MILF Commander Jack Abas during Tuesday’s formal turnover of two warehouses with corresponding solar dryers and an 84-meter long suspension bridge worth P8.3 million benefiting Rajamuda and Talitay villagers.

Pikit is the home of the MILF’s Rajahmuda camp.

“We’ve been fighting government forces for almost 50 years only to worsen the suffering of our people with the destruction of lives and properties,” said the 64-year Abas, head the MILF Eastern Command at Camp Rajamuda.

Emily Mercado, EU program officer in the country, enjoined the estimated 7,000 beneficiaries to take care of the infra projects and to take advantage of the livelihood training it provided to some 280 MILF widows and out-of-school youths in the area.

EU’s huge donation in grant of about 80 percent from the total P1.8 billion with a contributory share from the World Bank was intended for the development of 31 conflict-affected MILF communities within the periphery of six existing rebel camps namely Bad’r, Bilal, Bushra, Omar, Abubakar, and Rajamuda, said Matthew Stephens, head of WB-tasked team.

Through confidence building, Stephen said, the Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) takes care of the monetary aid, acting as a WB-administered multi-donor grant facility established to consolidate international development assistance intended for socio-economic recovery in strife-torn communities in the South.

“This is a good start, and we are willing to continue in our support to the ongoing peace process of the government and the MILF,” Stephens said.
In a statement, Franz Jessen, EU ambassador to the Philippines, has assured that, “When peace is truly established, our support for Mindanao’s economic development will be sustained.

The EU aid coursed through MTF is meant “to equip Bangsamoro communities of their social and economic needs reflecting diverse customs and aspirations.”

Abhoud Sayed Lingga, executive director of the Institute for Bangsamoro Studies, who represented MILF peace panel chair Mohhagher Iqbal urged beneficiaries to look at these opportunities as gratitude to outside benevolence worth the care and sustenance.

Irene Santiago, a member of the government’s peace panel explained that the project means a concerted confidence-building efforts towards the long-sought aspiration for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro political entity that may replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Heavily-armed MILF troops along with casual government forces securing foreign and local officials to the once embattled Rajamuda has been described as a picture of trust to ensure that no third party out to sabotage the improving MILF ties with the Duterte Government would occur, said Haron Tahir, Task Force Camp Transformation head.

Tuesday’s event capped the end of the yearlong EU and WB-funded project which benefactors want pursued to cover other security and socio-economic concerns, said Stephens with fingers-crossed.

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