EU turns over P312M livelihood fund for families displaced by Mindanao conflict

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MANILA, Philippines—Saying its support for the Philippines’ peace process was not just “a nice declaration or empty words,” the European Union on Monday announced a P312-million grant to provide livelihood for families displaced by conflict in Mindanao.

The EU handed the grant to the World Food Program on Monday to help fund the two-year “Enhancing the Resilience of Internally Displaced Persons in Central Mindanao by Strengthening Livelihoods,” a project to be implemented along with key Philippine agencies.

The grant was announced a week after the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a landmark framework agreement for the creation of a Bangsamoro, a new juridical entity seen to end the secessionist war in the region.

“We are acting fast because we know that the people of Mindanao want, and need, to see that their lives are improving as a result of the peace agreement,” said EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux in turning over the grant to WFP Monday morning.

Echoing earlier EU expressions of support for the peace process, Ledoux again hailed the preliminary agreement, saying it is an initial step toward achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. EU is a member of the International Monitoring Team that observed the government-MILF talks and has been a constant development partner in Mindanao.

“The framework agreement is only a first step—more negotiations need to take place before the final agreement is reached, but [it]demonstrates that the parties are on the road to a comprehensive settlement, thus creating a calm environment that enables the first steps of what can be called reconstruction,” Ledoux said in his speech in Monday’s rites at the social welfare department’s office in Quezon City.

In attendance during the turnover were officials from the WFP, the MILF and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which hosted Monday’s event.

The grant, made under the EU’s Aid to Uprooted People Program, will fund small-scale granaries, food-for-work and cash-for-work projects for cooperatives, farmers and fishermen in strife-torn areas in Mindanao.

The fund will also help enhance the agricultural cycle, from production and harvest to bringing the yield to markets.

“Projects such as watershed management, reforestation and agro-forestry will be promoted in the interior uplands to ensure a better living environment for the internally displaced persons,” the EU said in a statement.

The fund will also support coastal protection programs, particularly mangrove replantation and projects to protect and conserve biodiversity.

In a statement sent to the EU, Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF negotiating panel, welcomed the EU support and said the livelihood program will help move development forward.

“The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is greatly encouraged by the show of support for the peace process. This assistance will facilitate the work ahead, as we move towards achieving peace and development for the Bangsamoro,” Iqbal said.

“The MILF greatly appreciates the help EU has extended to promote peace in Mindanao, and to improve the living conditions of the people, especially the internally displaced persons,” he said.

WFP Country Director Stephen Anderson, meanwhile, cited EU’s role in promoting not just peace in its region but also around the world. The bloc just received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for unifying European nations.

“As we know, the EU has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing peace in Europe. In part, the EU in the Philippines is proactively promoting the Mindanao peace process through this significant and timely EU grant, which will enable WFP to help conflict-affected communities quickly recover and rebuild,” said Anderson.

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