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Rebuilding communities ‘first priority’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:51:00 11/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured people displaced by fighting between government and Moro rebel forces in Mindanao that the rebuilding of their communities is the government’s “first priority” and that P500 million will be released for this.

Arroyo gave the assurance in a radio interview at the Macapagal-Macaraeg ancestral home in Iligan City, shortly before she distributed grocery items, corn seeds, and medicines to residents of Nunungan town in Lanao del Norte province.

In August, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters raided civilian communities in at least five Lanao del Norte towns, displacing thousands and leaving at least 12 people killed.

“Our first priority is our civilians. The NDCC [National Disaster Coordinating Council], DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development], local officials and the NGOs [non-government organizations] have helped to provide food, shelter, and canned goods,
construction of permanent shelters, and help for those who are traumatized,” Arroyo said in the local dialect.

“Our rehabilitation component will include reconstruction of houses that were damaged or burned, giving livelihood to those who lost their livelihood means so we approved this P500 million,” she said.

The P500 million is part of a P4.5-billion windfall from collections of the value added tax (VAT) collections that the government earlier announced would be spent on poverty alleviation projects.

She said the development of Mindanao was the “soft” counterpart to the “hard” military action needed to end the decades-long conflict in the country’s south.

“We want to end conflict in Mindanao. The war has been going on for more than 40 years now and has claimed 120,000 lives. It is best for Christians and Muslims and the rest of the country if there is progress in Mindanao,” she said.

Arroyo visited Lanao just hours after she arrived back in the country from the United States, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on the importance of interfaith dialogue in ending conflicts.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-11-14T08:29:14+00:00UTC11bUTCFri, 14 Nov 2008 08:29:14 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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