By Roy Mabasa
Japan on Friday welcomed the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), citing it as an “important milestone that marks considerable progress in the Mindanao peace process.”
In a statement, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said it is critically important to ensure that this progress in the peace process leads to a visible improvement in the living condition of the people of Mindanao.
“This is why Japan, as a partner that has been consistently supporting the peace process for more than ten years, intends to seize this opportunity to further enhance its support to Mindanao,” Kono said.
He noted that this month, the Exchange of Notes were signed in order to provide a US$200 million loan for a road network that supports the foundation of people’s livelihood in Mindanao.
The Exchange of Notes, Kono added, was also signed to provide grant assistance for reconstruction of a vocational center in MarawiCity.
Japan further intends to provide assistance for livelihood in the agricultural sector and construction of water supply facilities.
It will also provide vehicles and other equipment worth about PhP160 million pesos for the Joint Peace and Security Team and the Independent Decommissioning Body, in order to support their initial activities of normalization (decommissioning and disarmament of MILF combatants) through the UNDP.
This package of new assistance is equivalent to the total amount of assistance that Japan has provided to Mindanao through J-BIRD (Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development) projects since 2006.
Kono assured that Japan will continue to strengthen its support as the peace process progresses to ensure that the people of Mindanao can feel the benefit of peace.
Also on Friday, members of the newly-formed BTA took their oath of office before President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.
Led by MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, the 80-member BTA will govern the new Bangsamoro region until elections in 2022