US Ambassador praises local partners in Mindanao infrastructure projects
Datu Odin Sinsuat (27 November) -- US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney and municipal officials led by Mayor Datu Ombra Sinsuat have launched recently the Awang Trading Center, built here under the third phase of USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao Program, or GEM-3.
Ambassador Kenney, who was accompanied by USAID Mission Director Jon Lindborg and USAID Economic Growth Advisor Robert Barnes, said that the U.S. government was happy to be of help to the people of the Awang community.
The barangay and municipal officials involved in the project had been "great partners," the Ambassador said.
Officials said they expected an increase in trading activity and smoother traffic flow in the area, now that local vendors have a permanent venue in which to conduct business. Previously, makeshift roadside stalls had caused traffic to build up along the highway leading from Cotabato City to Awang Airport.
The municipal government is committed to managing and maintaining the 180-square-meter trading center, and will be able to generate revenue from the facility's rental fees.
The Ambassador also visited a camp for internally displaced where she was briefed on the USAID-supported program for health outreach and the World Food Program (WFP) food assistance being implemented in the conflict-affected area.
The USAID/Food for Peace Office has approved WFP's request for 1,480 metric tons of rice valued at US$2 million, for distribution to internally-displaced families.
Later in the day, Ambassador Kenney and Mayor Muslimin Sema participated in the blessing ceremonies for the Cotabato City Mega Square, a commercial shopping center with eating establishments and a fitness center, operated by DC Invest, Inc.
The Mega Square commercial center is in a 15,000-square-meter complex built by USAID's GEM Program under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council, in support of the city government's Malagapas Development Project.
The Cotabato City Mega Square is next to the city government center and serves 31,000 residents from six surrounding barangays.
GEM's barangay infrastructure projects (BIPs) include boat landings, community centers, grains warehouses, solar driers, foot bridges and farm-to-market road upgrades. Up to 1,000 BIPs will be built by GEM-3 over the next four years.
In partnership with the national government and local governments, the GEM Program also constructs regional impact projects (RIPs), such as bridges, water systems, port facilities and roads, to support the economic development of a city, province, or group of adjoining municipalities.
To date, the GEM Program has built 40 RIPs in conflict-affected areas of the region, and will construct 20 more over the next four years.
These partnership projects are designed to spur economic growth and to demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Philippine and U.S. governments to the peace process. (GEM-PIA XI) [top]