MAASIM, Sarangani (December 21, 2008) – The early Christmas visit ofPresident Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Malacaňang's top officials hereaims to jumpstart anti-poverty efforts in communities affected byrecent atrocities by Moro rebels.
The Department of National Defense (DND) started its infra andlivelihood programs for the communities with the President leading aceremonial repair of a two-classroom building worth P250,000 in MaasimElementary School on December 17.
The DND is providing a total of P12 million for school repairs,barangay halls, water systems, farm-to-market roads, and seawall toMaasim and Kiamba towns."We will expand the projects as it is proper to do so, to the poorestof the poor in our communities and those who need our immediateassistance," Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said.
Teodoro said the local government units identify the projects wherethe department can effectively give assistance.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will work handin hand with the local government in implementing and supervisinglivelihood assistance for the communities.
"Ito yung mga tindahan na sinabi sa atin ng local government nasusuportahan natin (These are the small enterprises according to thelocal government that we need to support)," Teodoro said.
In Maasim, 300 families are targeted to benefit from the livelihoodprojects and a hundred families more in Kiamba town.
During the visit, the DSWD turned over 2,000 food packs to the localgovernment for the communities.
"The President, I believe, is genuinely happy since the people herebeing the beneficiary has something they understood that they willbenefit from," Teodoro said.
"The governor here and the local government executives have thecapacity, with experience, and the integrity. It is really an honorbecause it makes our job easier."
Teodoro said communities are thankful with the presence of themilitary in their area to ensure their security.
Armed conflicts between some Moro rebels and government forces eruptedin the neighboring towns of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum during the pastfew months, displacing thousands of families from their homes.
Army troops from the 28th Infantry Battalion have overrun a camp ofthe so-called LMG in Maitum town following a chance encounter in thehinterlands of Tuanadatu two days before the President arrived.
"Whenever there is a threat to our civilian communities, we will nothesitate to take action not only against the Lawless Moro IslamicLiberation Front (MILF) Groups (LMG), but also other groups who willviolate the law and threaten our civilians," Armed Forces of thePhilippines Chief of Staff Alexander Yano said.
The government declared a unilateral ceasefire for December 24, 25, 31and January 1, according to Yano."
Although we have a suspension of offensive military operations, it'sstill be an active defense against any possible attacks or anyatrocities that they may do," Yano said.
On the other hand, President Arroyo congratulated World Boxing Organization Oriental Flyweight champ and Maasim's pride RichieMepranum for winning over Cesar Lopez of Texas under the Pacquiao-dela Hoya Dream Match recently.
Arroyo proceeded to Glan town in the afternoon to inaugurate aP20-million limited international port for Sarangani-Indonesiabusiness route through the Jose Abad Santos-Glan-Sarangani CooperationTriangle (JAGS-CT). (Russtum G. Pelima/SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)