Mindanao community projects hurdle obstacles (Published: June 15, 2015)

South Upi, Maguindanao, June 15, 2015 — (Last of two parts) Even with funding from foreign governments and help from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the implementation of the Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) projects is not a walk in the park.

Apart from the MTF, the European Union, being the biggest donor, monitors the projects annually.

Matthew Stephens, MTF program manager, acknowledged that in some cases, “Things do not work the way they’re supposed to.” He cited, for instance, projects that should be community-owned that are being taken over by powerful individuals for their own use.

“A community center in Lanao del Sur was used as a residence by an influential person in the village,” he recalled. “The local government, the World Bank and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) had to intervene to force the illegal occupant out.”

To prevent similar things from happening, the MTF, through the BDA, established a hot line through which people could report complaints and concerns.

Stephens said the projects were aimed at poverty reduction, promising returns ranging “from 2 to 300-plus percent.” Most importantly, these “also help people overcome prejudices by bringing them together.”

Officials said the projects also help empower other sectors, like women who used to play secondary roles in community decisions.

Ganta’s toilets

This was the case in Ganta village in Kabuntalan town, also in Maguindanao. The community along the Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka rivers has a population of about 600 people, the majority belonging to the Maguindanaon tribe.

Being situated in two rivers, residents have been dumping their wastes there. “We have here the longest CR (comfort room) as people do not have toilets,” said Rubirose Andig, a resident of Sitio (settlement) Tusik, one of the seven communities.

As eight out of 10 households in the community have no toilets and residents use the river for bathing, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases were common.

Several village children also drowned while using the rivers as toilets, Andig said.

When BDA representatives visited the village over two years ago, the residents immediately decided that they needed latrines, said Andig, secretary of Dau’l Asgar People’s Organization.

A series of meetings followed until the BDA, through the MTF, began implementing the project. It was the women who initiated the building of toilets, said Amerah Nanaog, 27.

Two toilets were built for every sitio. A single-door structure with galvanized-iron sheet roofing and plywood walls, the latrine facility measures 1.2 x 1.2 meters, with a concrete floor elevated by about a meter.

At a cost of P288,033, the 10 latrines were completed and turned over to the community in March 2013.

The MTF was also set to inaugurate a P3-million trading center. Stalls are to be rented out to traders for P500 a month.

“We’re also taught about values transformation and the women were given equal parts in decision-making as that of the men,” Nanaog said.

Noramin Agar, 27, said the projects gave residents reasons to stay in Ganta, despite the perennial flooding when the rivers overflow during the rainy season and despite clashes between government forces and armed groups.

Agar recalled fleeing when the late Moro rebel leader Ameril Umra Kato and his followers attacked the village and clashed with soldiers.

Date Published: 
Monday, June 15, 2015