SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 21, 2008) – The US military has formally handed over Wednesday to Filipino government several buildings and a road project in the southern province of Sulu.
Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan led officials in the inaugurations of two Area Coordinating Centers in the towns of Parang and Patikul and also two hospital buildings and two school rooms. Tan’s wife, Nurunisah, herself a humanitarian worker, also led local women officials in the ceremonies attended by American and Filipino military leaders.
The buildings are worth several million pesos and Tan said the projects would further support peace and development in Sulu. “We are thankful to the American people and the US government for all these projects which will surely help efforts in promoting peace and development in Sulu,” Tan said.
Sulu’s military chief, Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban said other humanitarian projects are still going on in Sulu in partnership with the provincial government and the US military.
“All these projects were identified by the people themselves. We asked them of their existing predicaments. They tell us. We immediately respond and set ourselves to work because it is our responsibility to reach out to the people in need,” he said.
Last year, the US military under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines spend more than $ 6million in various infrastructure and development projects in Sulu.
The AFP, on the other hand, said it spent about P44 million, mostly on school buildings and other smaller projects and livelihood trainings for locals.
Sabban said the military has launched the so-called Community Organizing and People Empowerment approach in an effort to win hearts and minds of the locals. “Our gallant soldiers will continuously uphold the rule of law and respect human rights in the campaign against terrorism.”
“Respect begets respect. Soldiers will remain highly professionalized and will exhibit proper decorum, in or out of uniform. It is imperative that all peace and development stakeholders must continuously work together to keep on the peace that has been achieved so far and to advance it through sustaining the development initiatives,” he said.
Sabban praised Tan for his hard work and dedication to bring peace and development in Sulu. Just last month, Tan also inaugurated a housing project for poor communities in the town of Luuk and several more in the town of Maimbung and Indanan.
The government is rehabilitating the airport in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province, after President Gloria Arroyo has managed to source out funds for its rehabilitation, Tan said.
Engineers and other technical personnel with expertise in airport development are to begin a survey for the expansion of the airport and once finished, huge planes such as 737s and cargo aircrafts, will be able to fly and land safely.
Tan said the project, which will begin in a few months, cost about US$ 3 million to be funded by the United States of America.
Tan said Jolo airport runaway will be expanded to more than 2,000 meters so it could accommodate bigger passenger planes not only from Manila or Zamboanga, but from neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei that makes up the East Asia Growth Area (EAGA), a sub-regional economic cooperation initiative in Southeast Asia that included the Philippines.
Tan said the rehabilitation of the airport is expected to be completed next year.
He said the President has pledged more development projects for Sulu and so is Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), to which the province of Sulu is part of.
"The President has promised us more projects for the people and so is Gov. Ampatuan, who has been very supportive and working hard for the development of Sulu and of the whole autonomous region," Tan said.
Aside from Sulu, the autonomous region comprise of the provinces of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan and Marawi City. (Mindanao Examiner)