During the launch of the Pathways Education Project at the Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City on Friday, March 17, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that her government is giving the Philippines some A$40 million for the peace efforts in Mindanao and another A$90 million for education development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, an online report by Mindanews said.
She said that Australia wanted to get more involved in the development of Mindanao by supporting the government’s peace initiatives.
She also said the $40 million would be for the development projects in conflict-affected areas, including water supply, infrastructure, and “things that local people need to get ahead and get on their lives”, Mindanews quoted her saying.
She said the Australian government provide technical assistance to ensure the success of the peace process, Mindanews said in its report..
“With the support for education, with the support for peace process, in this way, Australia continues to be a friend, a partner of the Philippines,” Bishop said.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza thanked the Australian government for the support to the country’s peace efforts.
“This is something very new. I almost fell down form my chair. What we are doing in peace-building, getting the agreements signed is just one half of the story; the other half is how to make it sustainable and work for education is very important,” he said.
Dureza said they want to implement programs immediately because it may take some time if it will be done after the signing of a peace agreement.
“It provides the umbilical cord, dili pwede magbuwag ta kay nakatali kana nako (we cannot just separate because we are tied together) because of the development (programs). People will have to benefit early on the so-called dividends of peace,” he said.
He said that they are planning to put up a Mindanao Peace and Development Trust Fund that will replace the Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) after 12 years of its implementation beginning 2005.
Bishop said the Australian government will allocate some A$90 million for education development in the ARMM as a key to the region’s prosperity.