Mindanao to get more aid

Published by rudy Date posted on March 31, 2009

JAPAN yesterday signed a slew of grant agreements worth over half a million dollars for humanitarian projects in strife-torn Mindanao.

Japan, the Philippines’ biggest aid donor, also called for an immediate ceasefire between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels so that both sides could return to the negotiating table.

The grants, worth $660,000, would finance construction of five school buildings, a potable water supply system, an education center, and an irrigation project in areas where the MILF operate, Japanese ambassador Makoto Katsura said.

“I sincerely hope that these projects will help mitigate the current humanitarian crisis in Mindanao,” Katsura said.

“I strongly look forward to a ceasefire and immediate resumption of peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Japan has already contributed $1.3 million to Mindanao since 2006, according to the ambassador.

Manila’s chief peace negotiator, Avelino Razon, assured the Japanese envoy that the Philippines was committed to the peace process.

“We intend to redouble our efforts to undertake rehabilitation and development, most especially in areas where the armed conflicts have taken its toll,” he said.

Peace talks between the 12,000-strong MILF and the government were suspended in August after rebel commanders attacked several mostly Christian towns and villages in Mindanao.

The raids were prompted by a Supreme Court order blocking a land deal that would have given the rebels control over a large area in the south.

Over 600,000 people were displaced by the fighting that followed, and nearly 300 combatants and civilians were killed or injured.

While large-scale hostilities have stopped, sporadic clashes continue. On Friday, seven soldiers and at least 20 MILF rebels were killed in gun battles in Mindanao. –AFP

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