PNoy Tasks Almendras to Implement MILF Community Projects

One of the trusted allies of President Benigno S. Aquino III in the Cabinet has been appointed to head a new task force on the development of the Bangsamoro community.

In Administrative Order No. 37, the President designated Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras as chairman of the inter-agency task force that will develop and implement socio-economic programs for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) community in Mindanao.

The Task Force on Bangsamoro Development was created a few days after the government launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a socio-economic program for the MILF community, in Maguindanao. The project was part of the government's confidence-building measure following the signing of a preliminary peace deal with the MILF.

"The Government acknowledges its commitment to exert all efforts towards realizing the full implementation of the Framework Agreement," the order read. "The Framework Agreement states that the Government and the MILF shall intensify development efforts for rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development in Mindanao, and institute programs to address the needs of MILF combatants, internally displaced persons, and poverty-stricken communities throughout Mindanao," it added.

Members of the new task force are Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Commission on Higher Education Secretary Patricia Licuanan and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva.

The President's communication group is also part of the new task force on Bangsamoro development.

In AO 37, the President directed the Almendras-led task force to "develop and implement programs and projects to respond to the health, education, and livelihood needs of MILF priority beneficiaries, internally displaced persons, and poverty-stricken communities throughout Mindanao."

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro program will be the government's initial support for the MILF members and their families following the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The task force was asked to coordinate with Transition Commission as well as consult with concerned stakeholders in the implementation of such program.

The President also ordered the new government group to develop and implement a communications strategy on the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program. It must also submit regular reports to the Office of the President concerning the implementation of the project.

On funding requirements, the President authorized the member-agencies of the task force to charge against their budget any amount for the implementation of the Bangsamoro development projects.

"Additional funds as may be necessary for the implementation of the Order may be allocated from the President's Social Fund and Contingent Fund, subject to the approval of the President," AO 37 read.

The order took effect immediately after it was signed by the President last February 13.

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