EU pledges continued assistance to Mindanao peace and dev’t
MANILA, Philippines – The European Union has alloted 106 million euros ($137 million*) for various development projects in support of the government’s peace initiatives in Mindanao, and has pledged its continued assistance in the effort.
European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso made the announcement at his joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III, after the two leaders had a bilateral meeting at the EC Commission Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Monday, September 15.
“The European Union is also supporting peace and development in Mindanao, in complement to the Government's efforts, through various development projects worth 106 million euros. And I assured the President of our continued support and assistance in this effort,” Barroso said in his statement.
He also said he congratulated Aquino “for his efforts to bring peace, stability and development to the Philippines of which the successful accomplishment of the Mindanao peace negotiations and signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro is a good example.”
“In particular, I have congratulated President Aquino for the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Philippines Congress on the 10th of this month. This is a welcomed positive step forward in the overall effort in bringing lasting peace to people in Mindanao,” Barroso said.
In his statement, Aquino reiterated the Philippines’ gratitude for the EU’s “continued support and steadfast commitment to the Mindanao peace process.”
“The participation of the EU—whether as a member of the International Monitoring Team or as a partner in development as signified by the financial aid you have provided to the Mindanao Trust Fund—has served as another source of strength, as the Filipino people tread the straight path to a just and lasting peace,” the President said.
The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27.
Aquino submitted to Congress leaders the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law on September 10, with the hope that it will be passed by next year so that a plebiscite can be conducted on areas covered by the proposed new autonomous region before he steps down in 2016.
'More fun in the PH'
The two leaders reiterated their commitment to deepen their economic partnership. Barroso said he congratulated Aquino on the “remarkable economic performance of the Philippines” but at the same time stressed the need for more economic reforms to step up Philippine competitiveness and productivity.
Barroso said the EU and the Philippines “are also becoming more important to each other in terms of trade and investment rankings,” and added that the EU’s allocation for bilateral development cooperation in the Philippines “will more than double for the new programming cycle which runs from 2014 to 2020.”
Barroso said the people of the EU – the Philippines' third largest trading partner and is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines – apparently believe the Philippines' tourism campaign slogan.
"Europeans do believe it is "more fun in the Philippines!" (according to the country's slogan): with a historic record of almost 400,000 European visitors in 2013, an increase of 8%. With the European recovery and the lifting of the air ban for Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific, this growth is expected to strengthen in the coming years," he said.
During their meeting, Aquino also thanked the EU for its “overwhelming humanitarian assistance” in the Philippines’ recovery and reconstruction efforts following super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
He also assured EU leaders that the Philippines is working closely with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport on compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW). The EU is the second largest employer of Filipino seafarers.
Aquino also assured Barroso that the Philippines is taking active measures to stamp out illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing or IUUF.
Aquino’s visit to Belgium, the second leg of his 4-nation trip to Europe, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Philippine Embassy in Belgium.
The President began his Europe trip, his first to the region since he assumed office in 2010, in Spain. From Belgium, Aquino will go to France, then Germany, before proceeding to the United States for a working visit. – Rappler.com