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Japan aid extends to Mindanao

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By Veronica Uy

Beyond its support for high-profile rail projects in and around Metro Manila, Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines extends to Mindanao and encompasses areas of food security and livelihood, vocational training, and peace-building.

In a recent three-day press tour around Mindanao, the Embassy of Japan showed six development projects that are transforming the southern island into a peaceful and progressive area.

First is the Capacity Development Project for Bangsamoro (CDPB), which includes the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) Approach in-field training for farmers in the region. A collaborative project with the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (BARMM-MAFAR), it showcases a demo field in Barangay Nuling, Sultan Kudarat.

Second is the Grassroots Grant Program, which has constructed classrooms for the Ibn Taimiyah Foundation Academy. Dr. Ombra Imam, the Academy’s Director for Research and Extension, said the project has had a profound impact on local communities, particularly young people.

Third is the Food for Asset (FFA) Project in Barangay Reina Regente, Datu Piang, Maguindanao del Sur. In partnership with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), this initiative aims to bolster long-term food security and resilience.

Fourth is the Project for Enhancing Food Security and Livelihood in Bangsamoro. Facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the project involves the handover of a backhoe loader to the farmers of Barangay Diocolano, Tamontaka V, Cotabato City.

Fifth is the Capacity Development and Assistance for Vocational Training for Decommissioned Combatants Project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This initiative aims to equip decommissioned combatants with vocational training opportunities. Mr. Ochiai Naoyuki, JICA’s Special Advisor to the Chief Minister of BARMM, said livelihood is a key component of the peacebuilding process in Mindanao.

Sixth is the Project for Enhancing and Sustaining Peace and Security Mechanisms in Mindanao. In cooperation with the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) Secretariat and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) strives to maintain peace in conflict-affected areas.

With these six projects in Mindanao, Japan is the country’s largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) provider of loan and grant commitments.

According to the Department of Finance, as of August 2023, Japan’s ODA to the Philippines amounts to around US$12.92 billion, or about 40.5 percent of the country’s total ODA portfolio.

JICA is currently supporting the implementation of 28 ongoing loans with the Philippine Government.

Japan is helping the Philippines achieve an upper middle-income country (UMIC) status by 2025. It is doing so through “private capital mobilization-type” grants that attract investment and the “offer-type” that proposes a menu of cooperation that takes advantage of Japan’s strengths.

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