Philippines: Canada seeks to boost peace efforts, adds P40-M to Mindanao Trust Fund

DAVAO CITY -Driven by it's commitment to support peace and development efforts in Mindanao, the Canadian government, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has recently provided an additional P40 million to the Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF), further boosting the implementation of community-driven development for the conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.

Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Sutherland led the ceremonial signing of a grant agreement here last week for Canada's additional support for the Phase I the Mindanao Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP), along with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, World Bank Mindanao coordinator Mary Judd, Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) executive director and MTF-RDP1 Project Manager, Dr. Danda N. Juanday.

Ambassador Sutherland emphasized that Canada's contribution to the MTF is anchored on its country strategy to facilitate development and establish a stronger constituency for peace, while working with local governments and small businesses. Over 60 percent of Canada's country targets are directed to Mindanao, Sutherland noted.

"With development aid, we can show what can happen when peace starts to unfold. And right now, more and more (people) look at projects that support an environment conducive for peace," Sutherland said, adding that, "it is important to work with people in Mindanao, so that they can promote their own development."

Last year, Canada made an initial contribution of P30 million during the launch of the MTF in Cotabato City. Other bilateral donors to the fund include Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.

At present, the MTF provides funding support to the capacity-building of the BDA, the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and tasked to determine, lead and manage relief, reconstruction and development projects in conflict-affected areas. The BDA also receives assistance and admits new elements in the first phase, such as mainstreaming gender in peace-building work, community-level emergency response, advocacy campaigns, and enhanced coordination with other projects in the conflict areas.

"This event highlights the quiet and more sustainable part of peace building. While this (added support of CIDA to the MTF) is certainly not as dramatic as the ceasefire agreement, this is good news that we should focus on," Sec. Dureza said.

At the signing ceremony, Dr. Juanday presented recent updates on activities undertaken by the BDA, particularly on MTF-RDP1 implementation, which mostly involve the construction of projects such as the Community Hall & Training Center, Coco Pugon, Warehouse, Tire Path and Solar Drier (2 units), in pilot areas like Pacalundo, Baloi, Lanao Del Norte; Sungayan, Dinas, Zamboanga Del Norte; Baguindan, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan; Sapad, Matanog, Maguindanao; Lucatan, Tarragona, Davao Oriental; and Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

The two-phase MTF is administered by the World Bank, with the first phase focusing on capacity building and implementation of reconstruction and development projects in conflict-affected areas while the peace process is in progress. The second phase is intended to support full-scale reconstruction programs once a peace agreement has been signed.

"Rather than wait for the peace agreement to finally take place, we believe that the MTF is the right way to do it, and CIDA's additional support to the MTF is a voice of confidence to the peace and development efforts for Mindanao," said World Bank's Mary Judd.