GMA ACCEPTS  USAID-FUNDED  COMMUNITY  FROM  U.S.  FOR  MAGUINDANAO

MALACAÑANG, March 30, 2005 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) Peace in troubled Mindanao gets a significant boost when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formally receives from United States Ambassador Richard Ricciardone several vital infrastructure and community projects on Wednesday (March 30) in Matanog, Maguindanao.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the projects were pursued in conflict areas in Mindanao under the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program, to demonstrate the Philippines and US governments’ commitment to the peace process

The President is expected to arrive at Camp Abubukar here Wednesday morning where she will also hold a joint interaction with media and local officials with whom she will also have an executive session.

Until it was overrun by government military forces in 2000, Camp Abubakar was the stronghold and power radiation center of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The USAID-funded projects Ambassador Ricciardone will turn over to the President in simple rites consist of small and medium-scale infrastructure and community facilities, including the P10.78-million Sarmiento Bridge in Sitio Langkong, and the GEM-CIP grains warehouse and a solar dryer facility.

The 20-meter Sarmiento bridge complements the seven-kilometer concrete road constructed by the 54th Engineering Brigade from Langkong passing through Sitio Sarmiento that would benefit some 3,300 residents as well as those from nearby Barira town and the so-called "Camp Datu Sinsuat Complex."

Direct beneficiaries of the warehouse and solar dryer projects are former armed combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who are now members of the Central Langkong Hysalama MNLF Multi-Purpose Cooperative based in Matanog.

Members of the cooperative are 43 former MNLF fighters who are graduates of the USAID’s Livelihood Enhancement and Peace (LEAP) program.

On Wednesday afternoon, the President will visit and inspect a coffee orchard project in adjacent Upi town. The project is a business undertaking by the Upi municipal government under Mayor Ramon Piang with funding and technical assistance from Asia Foundation.

The coffee project also enjoys the support of Nestle’s Philippines which committed to procure its coffee beans produce under a memorandum of agreement signed between the Swiss company and the local government.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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