Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan with US and British Ambassadors Kristie Kenney and Peter Beckingham on Monday Sept. 24, 2007 in Patikul town in Sulu province in southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Sept) – US and British officials on Monday unveiled a huge package of development projects in Sulu province in an effort to help Manila bring peace and progress in the southern region.
Ambassadors Kristie Kenney, of the United States, and Peter Beckingham, of the British Embassy, arrived WITH Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon in Jolo town where Gov. Sakur Tan led local officials in welcoming the delegation.
Tan said the US and British projects will help a lot of people in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Among the projects are the rehabilitation of the Jolo airport by the US worth $3 million and $700,000 potable water system funded by the British government under the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program.
"The $3 million will be used to rebuilt and renovate the Jolo airport so people here can their fabulous products out to market in Manila and the rest of the world," Kenney told reporters.
It was in addition to the $190 million development and economic growth agreement the US recently signed to help fund other projects in Mindanao. "The $190 million will be spreading it evenly throughout various parts of Mindanao. The airport in Jolo and the water system, which costs $700,000, are separate projects," she said.
The potable water system, on the other hand, will benefit hundreds of people in four villages - Siolakan, Bakud, Latung, and SibakLatud – in Sulu's Siasi town, where AMORE also set up the communities' first access to electricity using solar power technology in 2004.
The project consist of an intake structure, four impounding reservoirs confined with 7,335 meters pipeline and with 21 tap stands, said Tetchie Capellan, AMORE's chief of party.
"I am confident that the completion of the potable water system project, the health, sanitation, and economic living conditions of the 200 marginalized households spread across the four villages will be addressed," Capellan said.
The AMORE is an alliance of the United States Agency for International Development, the Philippines' Department of Energy, Mirant Philippines Foundation Inc., the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Winrock International.
Bekingham described the province as vibrant and tremendous. "Everybody is very friendly and I am delighted to be here and see the projects that we are doing here," he said.
He said Britain is committed to increasing expenditure on water related projects, ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation. The British government, he said, has already supported projects in developing countries, like in the Philippines, a community-based program integrating water, sanitation and hygiene education.
Kenney and Beckingham also handed over ten units of computers to the Sulu National High School. The British government provided reference materials while the USAID helped to install the new computers and train teachers on their use for classroom instruction.
They also visited the Jolo Market Road which had been upgraded recently from an earthen causeway to a concrete-paved boulevard by USAID. Tan said the improved road now provides a more efficient means of moving products and people from Jolo port to the market area.
The road has already become an evening attraction for locals, many of whom now regularly take walks to watch the sunset and panoramic view of the Sulu Sea.
Tan said the ambassadors also handed over aquaculture production materials to former Muslim rebels now engaged in lobster and abalone farming. "Peace and development in the province of Sulu has always been the ultimate goal of my administration and the people of this historical archipelago."
"Seeing it flourish again into agricultural and marine-based economic potentate in the region amidst challenges is the glory we all relentlessly working for early realization," he told Kenney and Beckingham.
Esperon said the peace and order condition in Sulu has improved a lot the past months and is giving confidence to foreign countries to take a second look into the province's rich natural resources. "Sulu is very peaceful and we have the US and British ambassadors here pouring a lot of development projects. It is a very good sign that progress," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)