GMA: I CAN FEEL MINDANAOANS' "RISING POWER"

Mindanao Islands,  June 17, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) President Arroyo was feeling the "rising power" of the people of Mindanao when she toured 12 cities and provinces to meet Christians, Muslims and lumads.

"I feel the rising power of Mindanaoans Christians, Muslims and lumads because of their innate sense of unity, their hard-working spirit and their love for peace," she said.

In Cotabato City, Mrs. Arroyo said Kuwait has given $20 million for a road project and $10 million for the Pollok port terminal building.

"The Mindanao Natin is a program specifically launched for the progress of Muslim Mindanao," she said. "This region is the poorest part of our country which is said to be the breeding ground for terrorists."

"So we have focused our full attention and (will) exhaust all aid to alleviate the lives of the people there and give them gainful jobs other than become servants for terrorists," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she and World Bank country manager Robert Pulley had discussed where to place the $33-million financial assistance intended for the five provinces comprising the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In launching the P5.5-billion Mindanao National Initiative or Mindanao Natin, Mrs. Arroyo said the project will receive $74 million from the United States Agency for International Development, on top of the $50 million support for peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation front.

Mindanao will also get the bulk of the $100 million aid from South Korea for the construction of Lagindingan Airport and $20 million from Japan, she added.

Speaking in Iligan City for the last leg of her tour, Mrs. Arroyo said Mindanao would become the "Land of Promise" government projects in the region have been set into motion.

"We shall lead the people of Mindanao to rise from the conflict, secure their communities and win their destiny in the realm of justice, the rule of law, inter-religious solidarity and authentic human development," she said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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