After promising to deploy JICA staff to help accelerate the peace process on the island of Mindanao, President Sadako Ogata Thursday (September 21) completed a five-day visit to the Philippines.
During her tour, Mrs. Ogata toured several development projects in Mindanao, the southernmost island in the Philippines, and held talks with government officials and representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well as staff from JICA and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The highlight of the visit was a keynote speech to a seminar on Peace, Development, and Human Security in Mindanao sponsored by the Japanese Embassy and JICA in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The government and the Islamic Liberation Front signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003 in the latest effort to end three decades of conflict with Islamic and communist insurgents in which tens of thousands of persons were killed on both sides.
Talks on a permanent peace are continuing and Mrs. Ogata told the seminar that both JICA and the international community were dedicated to strengthening these moves and to begin to rebuild Mindanao's society and infrastructure.
JICA already supports grassroots projects in the region and Ogata said there would be further developments under the umbrella of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao.
"As a strong supporter to the peace process in Mindanao, the Japanese government has decided….to join the IMT," she told the seminar. And "an experienced JICA staff will be joining the IMT with a special assignment to strengthen socio-economic development support."
Areas of the world like Mindanao which were struggling to overcome years of social and economic destruction needed what Ogata described as a two-track approach to solve their problems.
The first was the traditional "top-down" approach by governments and state institutions to ensure national rights such as the rule of law and a strong judiciary.
However, in concert with that, there was now a need, she said, to develop a complementary "bottom-up" approach at the village level, strengthening education, job creation, and health care with the view to allowing local communities as well as the state to play an important role in their own future.
She described this second approach as "human security" and said JICA has been incorporating it into many of its worldwide projects in the last few years.