Philippines: UNDP, EC allot more funds for relief and rehab, & long-term peace and dev't aid for Mindanao

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MANILA-In a bid to uphold the gains achieved for peace and development in Mindanao, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission (EC) recently allotted more funding for conflict-affected areas in the island.

During the 7th Mindanao Working Group meeting held at the Manila Pavilion on October 2, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) pledged additional funds for the Action for Conflict Transformation (ACT) for Peace Programme, the fourth and final phase of the Government of the Philippines - United Nations Multi-Donor Programme (GoP-UNMDP) that started in 1997.

Chaired by the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) and the World Bank, the meeting served as a forum for members of the MWG to discuss how to preserve the peace and development gains in Mindanao.

The MWG is a mechanism/sub-group under the Consultative Group-Philippines, composed of government and donor representatives, for facilitating coordination of all foreign-assisted programs and projects in Mindanao.

Similarly, the EC affirmed its commitment to aid the people of the Philippines who are affected by natural or man-made disasters, by allotting € 7 million (PhP 470 million) aid for both relief efforts, as well as longer-term assistance to address the plight of displaced persons and host communities affected by conflict over recent years

For relief efforts, the EC, through its European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) specifically allotted € 4 million (approximately PhP 270 million) to help people affected by the recent violent incidents in Mindanao.

This decision to fund humanitarian efforts was based on a rapid assessment of the immediate needs of the civilian victims of the recent outbreak of conflict in Mindanao. Conducted from 04 August to 04 September, the study was done by a technical expert from the ECHO Regional Office in Bangkok, in coordination with the National Disaster Coordinating Council, the Philippine National Red Cross, and other government and non-government organizations providing emergency assistance to displaced persons in Mindanao.

This funding will be coursed through veteran partners in the field, such as UN agencies, the International Red Cross, and NGOs. It will be used to include cover agency food distribution, drinking water and additional sanitation facilities, non-food relief items, basic shelter assistance, health care and psycho-social support, emergency support to livelihood rehabilitation and protection.

As for its longer-term rehabilitation assistance, the Commission also approved a grant of up to € 3m (approximately PhP 200 million) for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) programme that will be coursed through the UNDP.

Other members of the donor community have similarly expressed their support to the government's relief and rehabilitation efforts, as well acknowledged the need to strengthen their coordination work for peace and development in the island. for Mindanao.

"For this meeting, 2 key points have been acknowledged. First, on MEDCo's end, that as the only Mindanao-wide integrator and coordinator for Mindanao, there really is a need to protect the gains invested into by the different stakeholders of the island," stated MEDCo Chair Virgilio Leyretana, Sr.

Usec. Leyretana then pointed out how Mindanao's economy is likely to grow this year due to sustained growths in agricultural crop production, exports and investments. He also pointed out how production of agricultural products continues to be remarkable in its performance for the 1st Semester 2008 due to the fact that the island is within the typhoon-free zone.

He further pointed out how Mindanao's total export earnings during the first six months of 2008 grew by 26.38 percent. Moreover, the PhP 4.289 Billion worth of investments in Mindanao for the 1st Semester 2008 registered with the Board of Investments created at least 3,617 jobs.

Likewise, in the area of peacebuilding, various independent outcome evaluation missions of different peacebuilding programs in Mindanao have specifically noted various contributions of ongoing peacebuilding initiatives to the reduction of violent conflict. Indications of personal transformations, community empowerment and institutional capacities for conflict management are just a few of the important and critical transformation that can be seen in Mindanao communities.

"Second, while government is the prime duty bearer, all stakeholders of Mindanao, including the donor community, have the responsibility to protect that the investments that have been made for the island," Usec. Leyretana pointed out.