GMA TO HOLD OFFICE IN MINDANAO FOR WHOLE WEEK

Malacanang, June 9, 2003 (Star) President Arroyo is leaving tomorrow for Mindanao to check on the progress of the Mindanao National Initiative, also dubbed "Mindanao Natin."

Mrs. Arroyo is staying in Mindanao from June 10 to 17 to see if the initiative has gained momentum, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

He said the President is planning to visit all six regions of Mindanao during her week-long stay. "She has set one day each for the six regions, so she can personally supervise the implementation of Mindanao Natin," he said.

Bunye said the Mindanao Natin program is projected to benefit over 5,000 barangays in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Western and Central Mindanao.

Last month, the Arroyo administration unveiled a P5.5-billion package for the rehabilitation and development of Muslim Mindanao. Besides the amount, there is $1.3 billion in official development assistance (ODA) funds earmarked for financing priority projects in the region.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo’s scheduled trip to Mindanao is very important, since it aims to ensure the implementation of infrastructure, livelihood and other development programs in Mindanao.

She was supposed to visit Mindanao after her arrival from her US state visit two weeks ago, but her trip had to be rescheduled due to bad weather spawned by typhoon "Chedeng," which left at least 41 people dead in its wake.

It is believed that poverty and lack of development in Mindanao are among the main reasons that Muslim separatist and bandit groups thrive there, making resource-rich Mindanao a hotbed of unrest. — Mayen Jaymalin


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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