Japan envoy vows more support for Bangsamoro peace, progress

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Japan envoy vows more support for Bangsamoro region peace, progress

/ 03:54 PM June 20, 2024

Japan envoy vows more support for Bangsamoro region peace, progress

FOR PEACE AND PROGRESS. Japanese envoy to the Philippines Endo Kazuya (right) assures BARMM officials, led by Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong (left) of Japan’s continued support during the envoy’s visit to BARMM Parliament in Cotabato City on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Endo Kazuya on Tuesday assured Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officials of Japan’s commitment to supporting the region’s peace and development.

Kazuya visited the Bangsamoro Parliament and was warmly welcomed by Speaker Pangalian Balindong on Tuesday.

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The visit aimed to show support for the Bangsamoro region’s ongoing peace and development efforts.

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Balindong, a lawyer, highlighted the Parliament’s accomplishments and the upcoming first parliamentary elections.

Ambassador Kazuya, accompanied by a delegation from the Embassy of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), engaged in discussions with Members of Parliament about the peace process.

Japan envoy vows more support for Bangsamoro region peace, progress

Bangsamoro Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong (3rd seated from left) prepares his notes during the meeting between regional lawmakers and the Japanese delegation headed by Ambassador Endo Kazuya in Cotabato City on June 18, 2024.

The Japanese envoy visited the BARMM five days after his government had approved US$5.5 million (about P323.19 million) in grants to improve access to birth registration of Sama Bajaus and other marginalized populations in the Bangsamoro region.

On Tuesday, June 11, Kazuya and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Philippines Head Maria Ermina Valdeavilla-Gallardo signed the exchange of notes for the 30-month initiative.

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The project will benefit 30,000 people directly and 100,000 beneficiaries indirectly from 2024 to 2027, and 800,000 more beneficiaries in the next 10 years, according to the UNHCR.

Kazuya expressed Japan’s appreciation for the progress achieved in the region and reiterated Japan’s commitment to supporting Bangsamoro’s journey towards peace and sustainable development.

The Bangsamoro Parliament welcomed Japan’s continued support and expressed gratitude for the ongoing Japan-sponsored programs that have contributed to regional progress.

“BARMM is grateful to Japan and we acknowledge JICA for its contributions, the JICA’s technical expertise, capacity-building initiatives, and various development projects that have benefited the Bangsamoro people,” Balindong told Kazuya and his delegation.

The birth registration project targets the itinerant seafaring Sama Bajau people, unregistered children in the context of displacement due to armed conflict in the BARMM, and decommissioned combatants and their families in line with the normalization process of the Philippine government.

The Japanese grant will expand UNHCR’s original birth registration initiative, through the BARMM Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD), which started in 2019 and helped more than 5,000 people.

It will cover 50 municipalities in Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The assistance will include capacity building to the digitalization of local civil registrars by providing them a database system and information technology equipment.

Each of the target municipalities will register at least 600 individuals, totaling 10,000 Sama Bajaus; 10,000 unregistered children, and 10,000 decommissioned combatants and their families.

Japan envoy vows more support for Bangsamoro region peace, progress

HE Ambassador to the Philippines Endo Kazuya

Ambassador Endo is optimistic that the program will strengthen linkages between local government units and these marginalized sectors.

“As a longtime partner for development in the BARMM, Japan wishes an enduring peace in the region accompanied by sustainable opportunities for progress. In translating such wishes to action, Japan supports developing governance, social services, infrastructure and livelihood improvement in the region,” he said.

As the BARMM prepares for the 2025 polls, Endo is hopeful the collaboration will “cultivate an environment conducive for prosperity and self-growth.”

“We are optimistic that with access to birth certificates, individuals who have previously not been able to secure legal identity will now have access to education, health care and other essential social services,” Valdeavilla-Gallardo said.

“With access to these services, we hope that they will soon have an active role in contributing to their communities and the nation as a whole,” she added.

Senior Undersecretary Isidro Purisima of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) lauded Japan and the UNHCR for being “active partners” of the Philippine government in ensuring peace, stability and development.

Purisima said the project had been aligned with the objectives of the normalization track under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Mindanao peace process in general.

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“Together, we are helping everyone in the BARMM to have the opportunity to be recognized, protected and be empowered to contribute to a genuine and long-lasting peace,” Purisima said.

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