Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00
A total of 295 shelter units built by the government under its PAMANA housing program were turned over Tuesday to the families displaced by armed conflict in Central Mindanao following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said that PAMANA is short for Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or Peaceful and Resilient Communities.
Collaborating in the implementation of the project was the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the municipal government units in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.
PAMANA is the Aquino administration’s program and framework for peace and development in conflict areas and communities covered by existing peace agreements. It aims to reduce poverty, improve governance and empower people through interventions that enhance peace and socio-economic conditions.
Instead of tents, small white houses made of plyboard stand in neat rows on the 10-hectare land lent by the municipal administrator.
With their new homes, these internally displaced persons (IDPs) are now ready to rebuild their lives reuniting with families.
OPAPP pointed to the case of an IDP identified as Tauntik, a 42-year-old father who thought he would not see his pregnant wife and two children anymore.
But the couple was reunited later and was a recipient of the PAMANA shelter program.
OPAPP cited another recipient,identified only as "Mamot" who said he was grateful for this government’s initiative. “We are now protected from the sun and rain unlike those days when we were living in a tent."
*Healing the spirit
Even before the armed clashes between government forces and lawless elements occurred in their area, 34-year-old Alenith and her family took off from their home in Ganta, Kabuntalan and traveled to Cotabato to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
Returning after a few days, they found the community deserted and many houses destroyed. “I suffered a nervous breakdown. My children were traumatized, always seeing armed men crossing the river,” she said. “We fetched some things from our house and went here (Libungan Toretta) to stay.”
Alenith related that various government and non-government assistance poured in Libungan Toretta. Among those she mentioned was the United Nations Children’s Fund’s trauma healing program. “Finally, my kids and I were healed from our traumas. As a volunteer, I also helped other IDPs suffering from the same problem.”
She narrated how hard it was to live in a makeshift tent made of scraps of wood and other materials. “But now, we have our own house. I am really thankful.”
Dreaming that someday her children will live better lives, Alenith said she hopes that a peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be forged soon. “So that there will be no more bloody clashes,” she said.
*Holding on to dreams
Twelve-year-old Salama said she did not mind being in third grade again as long as she would be able to continue her schooling, and eventually realize her dream of becoming a teacher.
When armed skirmishes in her hometown Kabuntalan erupted, her family escaped to Cotabato. “I was a grade three pupil then. I had to stop my schooling because of the war,” she said.
Salama recounted that fateful day in August when clashing forces entered their school grounds. “I was so scared that I cried. Our teacher yelled at us, telling us to take cover, but we wanted to go home because we were worried about our parents and siblings,” she related. “My family went to Cotabato to be safe. My aunt and I followed them there. After a while, we decided to go here (Libungan Toretta) where we lived in a tent for several months.”
After two years, Salama was able to resume schooling in third grade. With a house to call their own and newfound friends to stay, she feels contented.
“I want a happy life,” she said. “And I want to live here because nobody is fighting with another.”
*Pursuing a just, lasting peace
The government, while addressing the needs of war-torn communities, continues to pursue a negotiated political settlement with rebel groups, particularly with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“This administration is bent on resolving the decades-old armed conflict in the country,” said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles.
By Ben Cal - PNA
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