Classrooms Constructed as Japanese NGO's Projects in Mindanao
Two turnover ceremonies were held in Mindanao on September 17 -18, 2013 for projects implemented by a Japanese NGO "ICAN." Both projects were funded by the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines through the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects, a grant funding program of Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA).
On September 17, the ceremony was held at Bia-o Primary School in General Santos for the project called "Community Development Project with the Children of Indigenous Community in Mindanao" (Phase 2), amounting to US$ 240,693 (approximately 9.8 million pesos). The ceremony was attended by Hon. Ronnel Rivera, Mayor of General Santos City and representatives from DepEd and the community as well as staff members of the Embassy of Japan and ICAN.
In southern Mindanao, indigenous people (IP) such as B'laan or T'voli sometimes face discrimination and are forced to lead a harsh and poor living in higher lands far from urban areas. The IP need assistance in areas including education, health, and livelihood. It is also critical to take measures to get rid of the sense of inferiority that the local indigenous people have long held. In the ICAN project, classrooms were constructed at Bia-o Primary School in the same Barangay and desks, chairs and blackboards were furnished in the school. The project aims to create an environment that is more suitable for indigenous children to accept their identity positively. Another component of the project is empowerment of SPG (supreme pupil government), capacity development of teachers on the education for indigenous children, enhancement of health in community level, and improvement of livelihood through production and sales of handcrafts.
The other ceremony was held at Datu Embak Mangansing Memorial High School in Pikit on September 18 for the project called "Peace Building Project through Education in Conflict Affected areas in Pikit, Mindanao (Phase 2)," amounting to US$ 654,341 (approximately 27 million pesos). The ceremony was attended by Hon. Emmylou J. Taliño-Mendoza, Governor of Cotabato Province, Hon. Muhyryn D. Sultan-Casi, Municipal Mayor of Pikit, Mr. Hashim B. Manticayan, Regional Manager of BDA Central Mindanao Region, Mr. Abdullah Sugaguil, Pikit Regional Chairman of MNLF, Brig. Gen. Cesar Dionisio Sedilla Jr., Chairman of GPH-CCCH, Lt.Col. Ichairil, Leader of IMT Team Site 1, representatives from DepEd and the community as well as staff members of the Embassy of Japan and ICAN.
Pikit in Cotabato Province witnessed armed conflicts several times in the past, and the residents were forced to evacuate and return repeatedly. Although children are coming back to school gradually, educational environment is not sufficient yet. Under the ICAN project, school buildings were constructed or renovated for Datu Embak Mangansing Memorial High School, Balabak Elementary School, and Balatikan Elementary School in Pikit. School furniture such as desks and chairs were also provided. The project also includes "School of Peace Training" for the students and teachers. In the training, the students learn how to overcome conflicts peacefully without resorting to violence and the teachers learn how to deal with children with trauma or stress. Another soft component of the project is Mindanao Children's Congress, a forum for children from various ethnic groups in Mindanao to build confidence with each other and discuss the future of Mindanao.
The Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects started in the Philippines in 2002. Since then, the Japanese Government has disbursed approximately 256 million pesos for a total of 33 projects in the Philippines. Japan believes that this project will strengthen not only friendship between the peoples of Japan and the Philippines but also the existing strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines.