COTABATO CITY—Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa signed grant contracts with five Mindanao-based organizations in Mindanao for socioeconomic development projects to be implemented in conflict-affected areas through the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security projects (GGP) under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) program
The package assistance, amounting to approximately Php23 million, forms part of Japan’s commitment to peace and development efforts in Mindanao. Recipients include the Lower Riverside Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Lanao Intercultural Convergence for Development and Peace Inc. (LICDPI); Al-Amanah Humanitarian and Development Services Inc.; Philam Foundation Inc.; and Mindanao Children’s Library Foundation Inc. (MCL). The event was held at the Al Nor Suites and was hosted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
The contract signing was witnessed by representatives from the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations High Commission on Refugees among other members of the local press, the city government of Cotabato, civil society organizations, students, and other members of the academe.
For his part, Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA) Chairman Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan extended his gratitude to the people of Japan through the Ambassador.
Government of the Philippines negotiating panel member and former Department of Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani said that “much is to be credited to the Government of Japan and its people” with regard to the success of the Bangsamoro peace process. He also highlighted that Japan had always been one of the strongest supporters of the peace process in the international stage since it started.
The J-BIRD has been contributing to the development of conflict-affected areas in Mindanao (CAAM) since December 2006. From FY 2006-2014, 79 projects in the Philippines have been funded under the GGP amounting to USD 6,664,893 (Php315,282,763.37). The projects include construction or rehabilitation of schools, training centers, water supply systems and health centers, and provisions for post-harvest facilities and equipment.
With regard to the Bangsamoro peace process itself, Japan is a member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the International Contact Group (ICG) — mechanisms ensuring the faithful adherence of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the signed documents. “The continued support of Japan to the peace process continues today,” added Bacani.
The newly signed projects will be implemented in the municipalities of Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, Al Ashaire Academy in Cotabato City, Bayugan, Agusan del Sur and Kalbugan Elementary School in Pikit, North Cotabato.
“Today’s Grant Contract Signing… is invaluable to the Bangsamoro peace process. Efforts such as this, both initiated by the Philippine government and its local and international peace partners, are sources of light against the darkness of injustice and bigotry, of hope, that we can realize our dreams of a Filipino nation united and progressive,” said Bacani.
Addressing the recipients of the grants directly, Bacani said that they should use the projects to their full potentials. “These grants come with responsibility – a responsibility not to Japan or the Philippine government but to your fellow Bangsamoro. Use these to improve your communities and to further strengthen the ties that bind you together.”
“These projects, through your hands, must bear fruits, so that more will benefit from them. Peace and development can only be achieved if we work hand in hand and are looking toward the same direction,” he added.
Ambassador Ishikawa, meanwhile, assured the Bangsamoro people that Japan would continue to work hand-in-hand with all the stakeholders to support the social and economic development in Mindanao through development assistance such as the J-BIRD project. “I would like to close my remarks by wishing you lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao. I hope the five projects signed today will be steadily implemented and make substantial contribution to your goal.”