ADB renews  commitment  to Mindanao  peace process
Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda assured the Philippines would continue getting support from Japan in achieving sustainable peace and stability in Mindanao in accordance with the BOL.

ADB renews commitment to Mindanao peace process

Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) renewed yesterday its commitment to extend assistance to the peace process in Mindanao following last weekend’s bombing of the Catholic cathedral in Jolo that killed 21 people and left about 100 others wounded.

“On behalf of ADB, I offer my deepest sympathies to the people of Jolo, Sulu and to the families of the victims,” ADB vice president Stephen Groff said in a statement.

“ADB stands ready to support the government of the Philippines in the peace process and provide assistance as needed,” he added.

The Manila-based multilateral development bank added it remains steadfast in pursuing its development efforts in Mindanao.

ADB recently stepped up the provision of assistance in Mindanao with the approval of a $380-million loan in December 2017 for the improvement of 280 kilometers of national road and bridge networks in the region.

This was the first Mindanao-specific loan granted by the bank in 16 years.

This was followed by the approval of the $480 million worth of loans and grants for the Emergency Assistance for the Reconstruction and Recovery of Marawi in December 2018.

The financing package funds programs, projects and activities under the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program to resume economic activities and restore a good standard of living in the war-torn city.

ADB yesterday reiterated that amid these developments, it remains committed to increasing to over $1 billion the total commitments for Mindanao development for the 2018-2021 period with a focus on transport, flood control, creation of livable cities, and human development.

ADB has been financing key infrastructure project in rural areas in Mindanao since the late 1960s to early 1970s to increase farm productivity and income.

The twin bombings at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral on Sunday happened a week after the first conduct of the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which would create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It is hoped the referendum would end decades of armed conflict between Muslim separatists and the government.

The government will administer the second plebiscite on Feb. 6 in several towns in Lanao del Norte in Region 10 and in North Cotabato in Region 12 to determine if the residents there are in favor of grouping their communities together under the expanded Bangsamoro region.

In solidarity

Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda assured the Philippines would continue getting support from Japan in achieving sustainable peace and stability in Mindanao in accordance with the BOL.

Haneda made the assurance of Japan’s support as he expressed condemnation over the latest bombing attack in Jolo.

“Such terrorist attacks shall never be tolerated. Japan firmly condemns this terrorist act in the strongest terms,” Haneda said in a statement.

“Japan stands with the Philippines when the government and people of the Philippines are overcoming this difficulty in solidarity,” he said.

The Japanese government dispatched a monitoring team led by Norikazu Suzuki, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, to Cotabato City last Jan. 21 as international observers of the first plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL. 

Suzuki also led the contingent from the Japanese Office of the Cabinet Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

On plebiscite day, the team visited Sero Central Elementary School in Cotabato City and observed the opening of the voting precinct, voting by registered voters and counting of votes, and the canvassing of votes by the Cotabato City plebiscite board of canvassers.  

Suzuki said he was impressed by the passion of the voters who cared about the future of their region, and praised the dedication of public school teachers who conducted the procedure impartially with a firm attitude

The following day, Suzuki and the mission met with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Galvez and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Hajj Murad.

Suzuki said the Japanese government sent the plebiscite monitoring mission as a partner of the Philippines in the Mindanao peace process. 

“Japan will strengthen its support according to the progress of the peace process, and underscored the importance of the smooth implementation of the decommissioning of MILF combatants,” Suzuki told Galvez and Murad. 

Galvez and Murad expressed their gratitude for the support and assistance from Japan, their expectations for the continuing warm relations between the two countries, and their firm resolve to implement the peace process.

Further support

Turkey also hailed the ratification of the BOL and the creation of the BARMM, saying this development would end the decades-old conflict and establish a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We appreciate the devoted efforts of the government of the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other stakeholders for achieving this milestone for the southern Philippines peace process,” the embassy of Turkey in Manila said in a statement.

Turkey has actively supported the Mindanao peace process in leading the Independent Decommissioning Body under the 2014 peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

“We will continue contributing to the successful completion of the peace process,” the embassy said.  – with Pia Lee-Brago, Lino dela Cruz

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