Spain donates P20 million to Sorsogon

The Spanish government has donated P20 million to the Philippines to support its pilot project dubbed the Sorsogon Initiative aimed at eradicating insurgency.

The "Sorsogon Initiative" will allow the people in the community to implement by themselves infrastructure projects as part of the government's peace-building effort to achieve peace in the region.

Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Arias-Romero said Spain is fully committed to the peaceful resolution of the long-drawn armed conflict in the Philippines.

"You can count on Spain," Romero said after signing the memorandum of agreement for the Sorsogon Initiative with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the primary government agency tasked to coordinate the national peace agenda of the government, and the Local Government Academy (LGA), the training arm of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) held at Oakwood Premier in Ortigas, Pasig City.

He said the implementation of the project was a "result of hard work this past few months through frank and open dialogue between OPAPP, the local government academy and the embassy of Spain."

"In this way, a comprehensive intervention is achieved of importance to both the Philippine and Spanish governments which is none other than the resolution of conflicts and the peace-building in the Philippines," Romero said.

Romero stressed the importance of peace, saying that "without peace and stability there are no possibilities for development in any region."

Aside from Romero, those who signed the MOA includes Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya and DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who was represented by DILF Undersecretary Melchor Rosales, former Labor Secretary Nieves Confesor, chairperson of the government peace panel negotiating with the communist rebels; Marivel Sacendoncillo, LGA executive director; Sorsogon Gov. Sally Lee; Loida Nicolas-Lewis, of the Sorsogon Alliance for Peace and Development; Sorsogon Archbishop Arturo Bastes; Jesus Molina, coordinator general of the La Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International para el Desarrollo (AECID); and Danilo Encinas, head, technical committee of the GRP negotiating panel for talks with the communist rebels.

Pilot areas for the project are Barangay Sta. Ana in the municipality of Gubat and in the whole town of Barcelona, all in Sorsogon.

Abaya said the "Sorsogon Initiative" is part of the national peace agenda of the government, specifically in moving forward the peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).

The project was funded by the Spanish government through its Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Interncional para el Desarrollo (AECID) under the third phase of its Program on Strengthening the Local Governments in the Philippines with the Local Government Academy (LGA)-DILG.

Under the MOA, the OPAPP was tasked to supervise the implementation of "Sorsogon Initiative."

The OPAPP will also monitor and evaluate the project as well as provide administrative support for its successful and efficient implementation.

But the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Sunday assailed the "brute force" and "cheap psy-war tactics" that the Philippine government is allegedly employing to supposedly cover up the Arroyo administration's continuing human rights violations in its counter-insurgency efforts against the communists.

Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of the NDFP Human Rights Committee, scored the OPAPP and Armed Forces of the Philippines Civil Relations Office for issuing statements on the alleged successes of the GRP in its counter-insurgency program purportedly named, Oplan Bantay Laya, saying such posturing of the government is only rendering "serious" peace talks with the revolutionary movement impossible.

Agcaoili specifically criticized the OPAPP for continuously "harping" about its pseudo-peace talks on the community level as part of its so-called Social Integration Program (SIP).

[Source: By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star, 23Feb10]

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