RP unveils three-year plan for troubled south

Published by rudy Date posted on September 21, 2010

COTABATO, Philippines—The Philippines is to offer money and jobs to its militant-hit southern communities amid peace talks with Muslim rebels, an aide to President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday.

The program would give tens of thousands of displaced people access to basic infrastructure and health services as they rebuild homes, Aquino’s peace adviser Teresita Deles told reporters.

“We seek to close the gap between what happens on the negotiating table and what happens in the communities affected by armed conflict,” Deles said.

Deles said Manila was hoping to resume peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the earliest in October.

The 12,000-member group has been waging war for an independent Muslim homeland in the southern third of the largely Catholic country since 1978, in a conflict that has left some 150,000 dead.

The latest round of heavy fighting in August 2008 saw over 750,000 people displaced and nearly 400 people killed. About 60,000 people are still in evacuation centers or staying with relatives, relief workers say.

Deles said the government would put in place an employment guarantee scheme for one member of every household affected by the conflict, while skills training would be offered to other adults.

She would not say how the programme was to be funded.

“As peace negotiations are pursued, the critical work on the ground — particularly in conflict affected areas — resumes immediately,” Deles said during consultations with development agencies in the southern city of Cotabato.

“The recovery programme has a time frame of three years… intervention of less than three years will not be enough, but more than this will not be sustainable,” she said.

“By January 11, we hope the programme will be in full blast.”

The MILF was invited to the consultations but declined to attend, citing scheduling conflicts, organisers said. –Agence France-Presse

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