August 24, 2015
North Upi, Maguindanao Province, the Philippines
Hon. Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of Bangsamoro Transition Commission
Hon. Ramon Piang Sr, Mayor of North Upi Municipality
Hon. Chairman Sumail Mensong, MILF Municipal Political Committee
Hon. Mohammad Yacob, Executive Director of Bangsamoro Development Agency
Hon. Nestor De Vera, Principal of Kibleg Elementary School
Major General Dato' Sheikh Mokhsin Bin Sheikh Hassan, IMT Head of Mission
Teachers and students of Kibleg Elementary School, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
As-salamu alaykum Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat
I am honored and delighted to be back in Mindanao for a second time. My first visit was in May 2012, which was my very first trip abroad as JICA's new President. Since then, I have been fully committed to supporting the peace process and the socio-economic development of this region.
On March 7, 2015, a colleague of mine, JICA Vice President Toshiyuki Kuroyanagi was here to celebrate the first day of construction of this two-classroom school building at Kibleg Elementary School. This two-classroom was financed through a Quick Impact Project, or QIP, which is a small scale, low-cost project implemented in a short period of time that addresses immediate community needs. Working with local communities throughout the region, we also supported the construction of a number of other facilities through QIPs. We collaborated in building multi-purpose halls and warehouses with solar dryer in 20 sites in the provinces of Maguindanao, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Zamboanga Sibugay. These communities were chosen because they are among the most affected by conflict.
Why did we choose QIPs to implement these projects? Both JICA and our MILF counterparts believed that QIPs would be a great way for Bangsamoro communities to feel immediate peace dividends. For people to remain hopeful about the benefits of the peace process and continue to support it, they need to be assured that the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro will bring improvements in their lives. QIPs reap tangible results quickly and allow communities, particularly hard to reach ones, to get back on their feet. That is why, when I met with MILF Chair Ebrahim Murad soon after the signing of the Agreement, we agreed to conduct QIPs.
QIPs are just one element of our broader approach in the region. In 2013, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and JICA started the Comprehensive Capacity Development Program for the Bangsamoro. The cooperation activities include 1) assistance in public consultations for drafting a Bangsamoro Basic Law, 2) support in drafting a Bangsamoro Development Plan, 3) Human Resource Development, 4) capacity building seminars in Tokyo to learn more about Japan's political system and governance, and, of course, 5) the implementation of the Quick Impact Projects.
In the past 17 years, the peace negotiation had experienced several challenges, including the breakdown of the MOA-AD in 2008, the Mamasapano incident earlier this year and the prolonged deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. However, the Japanese Government and JICA have remained steadfast in their commitment to supporting the peace process and promote development in the Bangsamoro area. When I met with President Benigno Aquino last June during his State Visit to Japan and with Chair Ebrahim Murad when he came to Japan, I reiterated our pledge of support and discussed further cooperation.
Today, after 4 months of construction, I am very glad and honored to be with you as we hand over this newly constructed school building to Kibleg Elementary School. We all know the importance of a good education. In addition to having qualified and passionate teachers, studying in an environment that is conducive to learning is the key to a quality education. With these new classrooms, more children in the communities will have access to basic education.
Who are the students who will be using the new classrooms? Please raise your hand. Masaya ba kayo sa bagong classroom? (Are you happy with your new classrooms?)
Nag-aaral ba kayo ng mabuti? (Are you studying hard?)
You all have a very bright future ahead of you. Please study hard and listen to your teachers. Your parents always tell you that education is one of the greatest things that they can give you. I fully agree with them. Education is something that no one else can take away from you. Education will pave the way for your personal growth and will help you achieve a brighter future.
Let us all work together for a better future and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro. Know that JICA will remain true to its resolution of promoting peace and further strengthening our support in this region.
Shukran and maraming salamat.