Malacanang says government to launch socio-economic initiative to uplift living conditions of MILF communities

from Government of the Philippines
Published on 06 Feb 2013 View Original

The Aquino government is set to launch on Monday a socio-economic initiative dubbed “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” aimed at uplifting the health, education and livelihood conditions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities, a Palace official said.

In line with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s instructions to provide immediate socio-economic interventions for the MILF communities, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the national government will launch the “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” in partnership with the MILF leadership.

“Sajahatra Bangsamoro, an Arabic-Melayu-Bahasa derivative which means ‘Peace Bangsamoro,’ is the President’s concrete peace initiative and assistance for the MILF communities,” Almendras said at the press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

Almendras noted that the program signifies the partnership between the government and the MILF in working towards peace and development of the Bangsamoro communities as well as the entire country.

The national government will take the lead in the ceremonial launch of the program to be held at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute compound in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Almendras said the Sajahatra Bangsamoro will focus on health, education and livelihood services that will be done through an-inter-agency mechanism.

“These will include provision of health insurance by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth); upgrading of community-based health services by the Department of Health (DOH); provision of college scholarships and technical-vocational training by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), respectively; educational assistance to madaris (Islamic schools) and private schools by the Department of Education, needs assessment of selected Bangsamoro communities; Cash for Work Program, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others,” Almendras said.

A ceremonial turnover of the services to identified beneficiaries and medical missions will highlight the program launching to be attended by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim, Government of the Philippines peace panel led by Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, representatives of the DOH. DSWD, PhilHealth, DepEd, TESDA, CHED, and Department of Agriculture.

Also invited to grace the event are Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab’ Ghafar Tengku bin Mohammed and Malaysian head of the secretariat Che Khasna.

Almendras stressed that the medical missions will be open not only to MILF-identified communities but also to neighboring communities as well. The Indigenous peoples and Christians are also encouraged to avail of the free health services.

The Office of the President, through the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, will oversee the implementation of the program. An inter-agency technical working group has been convened by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary to ensure the effective implementation of the program.

After the launching ceremonies, a caravan will visit selected Bangsamoro communities to provide the services for the beneficiaries.

“Sajahatra Bangsamoro will be rolled-out in partnership with the MILF leadership in the spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” he said.

The Framework Agreement indicated that the “parties agreed to intensify development efforts for rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the Bangsamoro, and institute programs to address the needs of the MILF combatants, internally displaced persons and poverty-stricken communities, Almendras noted.

Mike Pasigan, MILF spokesperson for the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program, said the MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal has affirmed the partnership of the parties for the success of the program.

“Both parties have been working together in identifying and designing the projects that will address the immediate needs of the Bangsamoro communities,” Pasigan said.

“The program will further strengthen the collaboration between the government and the MILF as we build on the gains of the peace process. We believe that the Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a step towards long-term development that will benefit not only the Bangsamoro people but all Filipinos,” he said.