Ethnic tribespeople dance in Mindanao to ward off bad spirits and invite forest spirits for bountiful harvest. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)
COTABATO CITY – Two senior Filipino and American officials have inspected various development projects jointly undertaken by the Philippine and US governments in Mindanao and both were impressed by the gains of peace and accelerated economic growth in the southern island.
Romulo Neri, Director General of the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority and Jon Lindborg, Philippines’ Director of the US Agency for International Development, visited different parts of Mindanao, including Muslim autonomous region and other conflict-affected areas during the two-day trip that ended Nov. 25.
Among the programs visited by the NEDA-USAID team was the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM Program), which has been USAID’s flagship activity in Mindanao since 1996.
GEM is an umbrella program under which USAID is able to support a wide range of activities, including small infrastructure projects, livelihood assistance to former MNLF combatants, strengthening of business organizations, and opening international markets for Mindanao products -- all intended to contribute to peace and development in Mindanao.
GEM is implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council. The visitors participated in ceremonies which turned over several computers and internet connections from the GEM-CLIC project to Manongol High School in Kidapawan City in South Cotabato province and a community center under the GEM-BIP project to a village called Poblacion 5 in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province.
Neri and Lindborg also visited projects of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy project (AMORE) which provides solar and micro-hydro electrification to remote areas such as the village of Linandangan in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao.
They also visited education programs in the village of Poblacion Dos in Midsayap under USAID’s Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Project.
Regional government officials and USAID implementing partners briefed Neri and Lindborg on programs for health services, internally displaced persons, and environmental governance.
From 2001-2006, Washington provided more than 60% of USAID assistance to the country or approximately $260 million to reinforce Philippine government efforts to secure a lasting peace and build a better life for the people of Mindanao.
Other US programs to Manila include military assistance to enhance the professionalism of Armed Forces of the Philippines and to strengthen its ability to respond to a range of modern threats, including domestic and international terrorists; assistance for law enforcement; and food aid for the modernization of Philippine agriculture. (With a report from Mark Navales/Mindanao Examiner)