Thursday, July 27, 2006

Islamic Development Bank Approves $16M Development Fund For ARMM

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Jul) In its commitment to assist impoverish Muslim communities and areas in the southern Philippines, the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved to fund developmental projects worth $16-million or roughly P800-million to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), officials said.

Dr Mohammad Hassan Salem, IDB's head of special assistance, said the grant will be allocated to fund three major social services in the region -- education, health and infrastructure.

He said the assistance is part of the commitment of the 56-member countries, which constituted the Organization of Islamic Conference, to foster the economic development and social progress since the creation of the ARMM following the 1996 peace agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front and the Philippine government.

"The IDB is required to establish and operate special funds for specific purposes including a fund for assistance to Muslim communities in non-member countries such as the
Philippines, in addition to setting up trust funds," he told the Zamboanga Journal.

He added the bulk of the bank's special assistance program will be allocated in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago.

Salem, who arrived here on Tuesday to review the IDB project in Tawi-Tawi, said that at least 35% of the money will be spent for education.

The project will be focusing more in upgrading Muslim schools and scholarship programs for Muslim students not only in ARMM but other Muslim-dominated areas in the country.

He said the project, which is now being formulated by the national and the autonomous education departments, and the Council of Ulama is expected to teach Muslim students on basic Arabic language, values of Islam, and bilingual education.

To improve health condition in the Muslim region,
Salem said the IDB will put up a $1-million hospital equipped with complete and modern medical facilities in the town of Tamparan in Lanao del Sur.

The special fund will also use to purchase medicines to be delivered in far-flung areas of the region, and the construction of municipal health stations to some towns where there is no existing health centers.

For infrastructure, the IDB will also use about 40% of the funds to construct bridges, farm-to-market roads, and seaports. He said IDB allocated $1.5 million to provide major improvements and expansion in water delivery service, particularly to those in the islands.

"Infrastructure is very crucial not only for the development of the Autonomous region's local economy but also for social progress," he said.

Salem said the IDB has more than 800 special assistance operations worldwide amounting to $497 million. Some $329 million are earmarked for 304 operations in member countries and $167 million will go to non-member countries, including the Philippines.

The autonomous region has been the center stage of the conflict in
Mindanao and suffering from extreme poverty, problems on peace and order and lack of education for the last years.

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