by Antonio L. Colina IV
Davao City – The Australia government has extended more than P5 billion (AUS$130 million) in funds for educational development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the country’s peace efforts in the Bangsamoro and with communist rebels.
This was disclosed by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during the launch of Australia’s flagship program in the Philippines, “Education Pathways to Peace in Mindanao (PATHWAYS),” at the Marco Polo Hotel here, Friday.
According to Bishop, Australia will be allocating AUS$90 million for an educational development program in ARMM as part of her country’s commitment to improve teachers’ quality, curriculum development, and policy development, as well as in other areas where her country can assist in boosting education standards in the region.
“We are particularly focused with our development program and supporting people gain a basic education. Indeed, Australia has been indeed the largest development part of the Philippines and in Mindanao in education sector,” she said.
Bishop also announced that Australia was going to give AUS$40 million assistance for the peace efforts in Mindanao.
“We term the Australian-Philippines relationship as a comprehensive partnership and I think that it is quite evident that it is a long standing relation that covers many different aspects of government, business, and of course, people-to-people links,” she said.
She said the assistance fund will be for the development projects in areas of conflict, concentrating on water supplies, infrastructure, and “things that local people need to get ahead and get on their lives.”
She said that the Australian government has vowed to support the peace agreements with the rebel groups by providing technical assistance in order to ensure the success of the peace negotiations.
The government has re-opened talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and in the process of completing the peace process with the Moro National Islamic Front (MILF), and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“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,” she said.
Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (PAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza thanked the Australian government for its support for the country’s peace efforts.
“This is something very new. I almost fell off 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.
National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ernesto Pernia acknowledged the support of the Australian government.