JOLO, Sulu (CDO Journal / Nov 9) – Saudi Arabia has pledged to support peace and development projects in the largely Muslim province of Sulu in southern the Philippines.
Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said they are preparing several proposals for infrastructure and other development projects after Saudi Ambassador to Manila, Mohammed Ameen Wali, assured him of his country's support.
"Saudi is very supportive of our peace and development efforts and we are now preparing several project proposals that will help alleviate the situation of the poor in Sulu," Tan told reporters.
Saudi Embassy also donated five cases of preserved dates which would be distributed to the poor and victims of a recent fire in Sulu province, said Tan, who met with Wali in Manila this week.
Saudi's support to Sulu, Tan said, would help alleviate the situation of many poor people in the province and can even provide them livelihood through various anti-poverty programs.
"The support of Saudi Arabia (to Sulu) will surely bring peace and development and livelihood worthy of human dignity. We are launching our own jihad towards the attainment of peace and unity. Other forms of jihad, particularly violent jihad is primitive," Tan said.
Saudi Arabia previously signed a US$20 million loan agreement for the development of Mindanao roads project. The loan agreement financing was sourced from the US$100 million pledge under the Saudi Fund for Development (SDF).
Saudi Arabia , an influential member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), is also supporting the peace process in the southern Philippines.
It will also host a three-day Tripartite Meeting between the OIC, the Philippines and the former rebel group, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), starting Saturday in Jeddah Tan said the meeting will discuss the implementation of the 1996 peace accord between Manila and the MNLF headed by its jailed chieftain Nur Misuari regarding the situation in the southern Philippines.
Misuari is facing rebellion charges after his forces tried, but failed to overrun a military base on the island in 2000. Misuari, disgusted with the peace agreement, fled to Malaysia, but was arrested there and later deported to Manila. He accused Manila of reneging in the peace deal and for failing to uplift the poor living standards of many Muslims in the South.
Under the agreement, the Philippines is to provide a mini-marshal plan and housing and livelihood to tens of thousands of former rebels. Philippine authorities have allowed Misuari to attend the tripartite meeting, Tan said.
Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC Secretary General, has welcomed Manila's decision to allow Misuari to participate in the meeting. OIC had sent a high-level delegation to the southern Philippines to assess the volatile situation last year.
The opening of the tripartite conference will be preceded by an expanded meeting of the Indonesia-led Committee of Eight, in-charge of southern Philippines.
Sporadic fighting between Filipino troops and MNLF forces still continue in many areas in southern Philippines, despite the peace deal. MNLF rebels signed the deal with Manila, but the government allowed them to keep their huge inventory of high-power weapons, mostly automatic rifles, anti-tank rockets and machine guns.
They later accused the Arroyo government of failing to comply with the accord. Former rebels also seized a delegation of senior military officials in Sulu earlier this year after reports of a scheduled tripartite meeting on Feb. 6-8 in Jeddah had been shelved off by the Arroyo government.
The hostages were later freed after the Philippine government agreed to proceed with the tripartite conference. The gunmen also demanded Manila to free Misuari so he can lead the MNLF to the meeting. (Sulu Provincial Media Desk)