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Mindanao gets Spanish development Aid

Spanish development assistance is coming in – and increasing – to Northern Mindanao.

The Agencia Española Cooperacion Internacional (AECI), the Spanish agency for technical cooperation, said Spain recently gave P32 million to the community health programs of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur. The two provinces, belonging to the Caraga region in Northeast Mindanao, were chosen by the AECI for being the poorest area in the country.

The AECI expects the public health care program to run for three years, to be completed by the last quarter of 2004. The specific objective is to improve the local health care sytem and health practices in selected communities in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur.

The P32-million check was given by Spanish Ambassador Tomas Rodriguez Pantoja to the Philippine National Red Cross, the local counterpart organization. The Philippine Red Cross will implement the health care program in coordination and in partnership with the Cruz oja Española (Spanish Red Cross).

Ambassador Pantoja reaffirmed "Spain's priority to public health in its development assistance to the Philippines.." The Spanish envoy added that the priority is in line with "its poverty alleviation strategy of improving the conditions of the most disadvantaged groups in the country."

The main components of the health care program include a sustained information, education, and communication campaign for environmental sanitation and preventive health strategy. This approach will be complemented with the provision of safe water and sanitary systems badly needed for the effective control of water-borne and infectious diseases.

Another major aspect is the manpower capability development with the training of barangay health workers who will provide quality primary health care. The training of local health workers on the upgrading of health knowledge and practices, will complement the construction and/or rehabilitation of health stations or centers which will have modern medical equipment and supplies.

Finally, community organizing and the training of multi-sectoral groups (MSGs) to support health care activities will allow communities to identify, implement, and sustain health initiatives through the mobilization of their resources. This strategy will lead to self-sufficiency and improvement of the health conditions of the local population.

The province of Camiguin in Northern Mindanao is another recent beneficiary of aid from the government of Spain. The country's smallest island-province received a grant for its integrated water supply and management. Ambassador Pantoja had earlier given a check for P38 million to Camiguin in the presence of President Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo.

Over the past decade, P6.2 million has been released for Camiguin's sustainable development, making Spain its single biggest grant-donor. The involvement of the Spanish government in Camiguin began in 1990 with its Spanish Assistance for Integrated Livelihood (SAIL) program, the flagship project of the Cooperacion Española in the Philippines.

Since 1990, the SAIL program has undertaken three phases of intervention in the basic social needs of the island in pursuit of its goal- poverty alleviation. It has offered assistance in microcredit finance, water supply and management, construction of farm-to-market roads, and public healthdevelopment.. To enhance rural development, the Cooperacion Española (AECI) has also done work in the development of aquaculture program and the construction and equipping of agrarian family farms.

On top of the P38-million grant for the water supply system of Camiguin, there will be additional financial assistance to further help the island-province recover from the ravages of past typhoons. Once the technical study on the extent of damage requested by Spain has been completed, more aid funds will be given to boost the P6-million emergency aid released earlier.

Ambassador Pantoja reiterated his government's position to help in the rehabilitation of the country's smallest island-province. "Definitely, we intend to make all possible efforts to implement its comprehensive and integrated development." He added: "Spain stands ready and committed to help Camiguin."

The Philippines enjoys a top priority of Spanish development assistance. For the past three years (1998-2000) alone, the Cooperacion Española (AECI) provided grants amounting to P1 billion, which represents 70 per cent of the total aid given to the Asian region. For the next three-year period (2001-2003), the amount was recently increased by 40 per cent to P1.4 billion.

SOURCE: Manila Bulletin 12/22/2001

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