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Government gaining ground on localize peace talks in North Cotabato town

A soldier speaks with members of Bahani, a local armed group, during a meeting in Arakan town in North Cotabato. (Photo by DSWD)

ARAKAN, North Cotabato —  The government is gaining headway in its localized campaign against insurgencies in Central Mindanao Region, a senior government official said Monday, as sectors involved in the crackdown continuously working to end the cycle of armed rebellion. 

Cezario Joel Espejo, regional director of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said the 429 guerrillas under Bahani forces, a group of traditional warriors in this town formed to protect their ancestral domain, have surrendered to authorities under the state’s local peace talks. 

In partnership with the military and local officials, the intervention, according to Dir. Espejo, was part of Executive Order 70, which President R. Duterte signed in December 2018, creating the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict that institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in obtaining exclusive and sustainable peace.

On February 1, Espejo said the rebel-returnees, 80 of them from the village of Ladayon, have started community work under  Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation– Disaster Risk Reduction, a program implemented by the DSWD through Cash-for-Work that aims to to strengthen efforts to combat possible disaster risks within their communities. 

During their short term work, the returnees will work on community service — including gardening, rehabilitation of roads, day care centers, and schools to mitigate the economic effects of climate change crisis.

“Our government sees the needs of these people and to prevent them from being exploited, we are providing them jobs and  capacitating them,” Dir. Espejo said.

At the end of their ten-day community service, the returnees will be given P2,900 each by the DSWD. (JBM /  DSWD)

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Starting from scratch, couple now runs a one-million worth motor parts shop in South Cotabato

Salvacion Pingoy, 43, stands outside their shop in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. (Photo by JBM / DSWD)

LAKE SEBU — On the day Richard Pingoy was driving his motorbike taxi he rented from their neighbor in this town more than a decade ago, his wife recalled how they were struggling to cope with their daily needs to survive.

But Pingoy, 43, who only finished grade school and was earning enough only to cover their daily food allowance, did not give up his dream to have their own motor parts shop at the heart of the town, where motorcycles in their town are considered king of the road.

His wife, Salvacion, 43, said they were living in small typical wooden-made house but she had no doubt before their life will change. And starting from scratch, Salvacion revealed they focused on selling fish for years in their community using a small capital they save from her husband’s part time job income.

The family sacrificed a lot – specially luxury in life at the height their small time business was growing – as they sensed something great is coming along their way.

“We did that for eleven years. The money we put in on our fish business accumulated. We also used the excess of grants from the government assistance,” said Salvacion in a local dialect while looking after their store at the town proper. 

Now, the couple, after more than 12 years, found themselves at the town proper, running their own business – just the way they a motor parts shop.

 “I put into practice what I learned from our family development sessions…like how you will give importance to your family…handling small business…and ensuring our children in school,” she added.

“My source of inspiration was our status in life. We don’t want to die being poor. We did not stop believing that we can make it,” she explained.   

The family’s children, Resyl Feby Zhyn, 15, and Rcyl  Yrich Shyn, 11, have been included in the government conditional cash transfer since 2009. 

“It helps a lot to us since education fees in public schools before are not free,” she said, referring to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program  where the family was among the thousands of households covered by scheme.

“We have tested our government is working. Although it’s just a small money from the monthly grants, it helps a lot,” she said.    

Last month, the Department of Social Welfare and Development(DSWD), along with partners, signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the 4Ps law or Republic Act (RA) 11310  where from P500 worth of health grant per month, the program will now provide P750 assistance per month.

The Pingoy was among the thousands of households covered by the anti-poverty drive where on education grant, clients will get P300 per month for each elementary student and daycare, P500 per month for each junior high school student and P700 for those in senior high school.

In April last year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 4Ps  law that will ensure qualified poor households like  the farmers, fishermen, homeless families, indigenous peoples, those from the informal sector, and those living in isolated and disadvantaged area. 

However, with their life dramatically change, Salvacion said they are willing to waive or give up their slot in the government program so others, who are still under survival wellbeing, can avail of the government’s intervention. (JBM / DSWD)

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T’boli farmers receive farm cattles

T’boli farmer-b eneficiaries received their cattles as part of Department of Social Welfare and Development animal-dispersal program in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. (Photo by JBM)

LAKE SEBU — As dawn breaks in a small uphill village in this town mainly dominated by native people, Rudy Sulan was excited – preparing early from his house to get at the venue where the state will release livelihood assistance as part of the  government’s punch to curve poverty. 

“I need to be early at the area. This is my first time to avail of the government’s program. I will take care and work to breed our cattle,” Sulan, 53, who owns a small land where he grows Banana, Bamboo and Abaca trees, said in local dialect. 

A former village councilor in Klubi, Sulan thanked the government for looking into their needs, an intervention he described important for people like them in far-flung community.

Another recipient, Dindo Kayugan, 49, shared the same view with Sulan, describing the government support answered prayer since he has been praying for a farm animal that he will use for their farm.

The two elders were among the 27 qualified farmer-beneficiaries who received their cattles Thursday as part of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) animal-dispersal program under Kalahi-CIDSS, a program for Indigenous Peoples funded by Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. 

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 regional director, explained the program specifically aims to improve the socio- economic condition of residents in isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities in the region.

“The good thing with the program is we do not dictate the villagers on the kind of project they should propose for government to fund. We let them decide and think what project they urgently need in their community,” Dir. Espejo said.  

At the same time, the agency chief noted the intervention was designed to support  strengthen the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 signed by President Duterte on December 2018. 

Under EO 70, President Duterte directed all local officials and government line agencies to adopt the national peace framework and institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining “inclusive and sustainable peace” in the country as part of approach in “addressing the root causes” of the armed conflict.

Earlier this week, DSWD assistant regional director for operations Bonifacio Selma, Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana deputy program manager John Kevin Camarinas, and Kalahi-CIDSS regional infrastructure specialist Engr. Rolly Teofilo facilitated the distribution of 8 carabaos and 10 cattles to beneficiaries of Barangay Palao and Kiloyao in Libungan, North Cotabato.  

Across the region, the PAMANA project covers 11 areas with certificate of ancestral domain title including Kitaotao in Bukidnon; Carmen, Arakan, Libungan, Aleosan, Alamada, Midsayap, Pikit in North Cotabato; Malungon and Malapatan in Sarangani, and T’boli, Lake Sebu, Norala and Tantangan in South Cotabato. (JBM / DSWD)

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DSWD, other government line agencies, form team to handle needs of arriving OFs from Middle East

DSWD meets representatives from partner agencies and formed a team that will look into the needs of Overseas Filipinos who are expected to arrive in the country from Middle East. (DSWD Photo)

KORONADAL CITY —Government line agencies in the region formed a repatriation team that will look into the needs of Overseas Filipinos (OFs) who are expected to arrive in the country anytime following the mandatory repatriation directive of President Rodrigo Duterte amid the tension in the Middle East between United States and Iranian forces.

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 regional director, said they met Wednesday in this city their counterparts from the Department of Trade and Industry, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration  and  Technical Education and Skills Development Authority including local government representatives. The team agreed to complement the delivery of services for affected OFs. 

According to Dir. Espejo, the composite team will specifically extend assistance and other services to affected workers, including free calls from telecommunication firms when OFs arrives at the airport.

“As government workers, this is what we signed for. And we need them to feel the government is working, assisting and providing them services,” he said.

Nairah Aratuc, chief of social protective program, said initial information from OWWA around 14 OFs are expected to return home soon amid the tension in the Middle East after Iranian forces recently fired missiles at U.S. troops in Iraqi territory to retaliate for an airstrike that killed a top general.

Aratuc said the agency will provide educational and financial assistance under Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), a program that serves as a social safety net or a stop-gap measure to support the recovery of individuals and families suffering from unexpected life events or crisis.

An estimated 2.17 million documented Filipinos are working across the Middle East, many of them employed as laborers or domestic helpers. (JBM/ DSWD)

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Boxes of food packs sent by DSWD-12 to Taal evacuees

Volunteers load into a truck boxes of family food packs intended for evacuees affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption. (DSWD Photo)

KORONADAL CITY — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Mindanao pitched in to help lessen the effects of Taal Volcano’s eruption by sending relief supplies Tuesday for families in Batangas province.

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 regional director, said the agency will be sending within the day around 3,400 boxes of family food packs for thousands of affected families that fled from ash-blanketed villages and crammed into hundreds of emergency centers in Batangas.

According to Dir. Espejo, once the loading of the food items into two trucks is done at the warehouse in nearby Tantangan town, it will go straight to San Fernando Airbase located in Lipa City in Batangas for the delivery to the counterparts.  

“Despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times, we are in a time where we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” Dir. Espejo said. 

“With the unimaginable traces of  destruction, we are standing with the people of Batangas and those who were affected by the eruption,” he added.

Since the eruption last week, the 311-meter Taal Volcano, one of the world’s smallest but the second-most restive of about two dozen active Philippine volcanoes, has remained at alert level 4, meaning a hazardous explosive eruption may happen within hours or days. (JBM / DSWD)

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DSWD unites with other agencies in campaign vs malnutrition, stunting in Region 12

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 regional director, speaks during the holding of Task Force Gatas meeting Tuesday, January 20, 2020 in Koronadal City. (DSWD Photo)

KORONADAL CITY — The head of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) urged Monday its partner agencies to unite and step up the state’s campaign against malnutrition in the region, saying the country remains with the highest prevalence and number of stunted children globally. 

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-12 regional director, made the appeal during first quarter meeting of Task Force Gatas (TFG),  a convergence initiative of government line agencies  in support to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to have a national feeding program to help malnourished children.

A survey from the National Nutrition Council showed in Mindanao has the highest prevalence of malnutrition and stunting with 45.2 %, meaning with around 230,000 children or at least 1 in every 2 children under five years old, are stunted. 

Stunting results in poor nutrition and repeated episodes of infection during the child’s first 1,000 days, or from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy, when the baby is still in the womb, until two years of age. Poor health-seeking behaviors and sanitation practices also lead to malnutrition and stunting.

The care and nutrition in the first 1,000 days from pregnancy to two years of age in a child’s life is the critical foundation for life-long health and well-being of children. Missing this window of opportunity can have irreversible adverse impact to children’s physical and cognitive development.

Dir. Espejo said as part of TFG initiative include the community-based dairy production  in which would be tapped to help in the school-based feeding program. 

“We are happy with this partnership for our less fortunate and under-privilege children in the region,” Dir. Espejo said. 

Giving proof, Dir. Espejo said the agency, through its Sustainable Livelihood Program, will organize an association that will focus on Goat and Cattle production to serve as service providers of raw requirements for dairy milk production. 

“I am confident that with our strong partnership, we can make a positive difference in the lives of the children,” he said. 

Last year, the agency served 102,427 children across Central Mindanao under Supplementary Feeding Program, the provision of food to children in addition to regular meals.  Aside from the regular feeding, beneficiaries were also taught proper hand washing while their parents were trained preparing healthy meals from their backyard vegetable gardens. (JBM / DSWD)

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DSWD completes P105 million worth of school buildings for IPs in Region 12

KORONADAL CITY—The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has completed at least P105 million worth of school buildings intended for Indigenous Peoples (IP) across Central Mindanao region last year, the agency head reported Friday.

The project, under DSWD’s Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), benefited around 5,500 IP children,  mostly from tribes of Blaan, T’boli, T’duray, Tagakaulo, Manobo Dulangan, Tagabanwa Manobo, Erumanen Ne Menuvu and Uvu Manobo, according to DSWD regional director Cezario Joel Espejo. 

Dir. Espejo said the funding, utilized for the construction of 32 out of 50 school building targets in the region, was made possible in partnership with the Department of Education.

“The IP sector is one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged sectors in our society. This convergence initiative has paved the way for the better quality education and service delivery to school children in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the region,” Espejo said.

Dir. Espejo explained unlike the usual state-funded school building, villagers were given the liberty to choose the name, type and other aspects of classroom construction.

“This is a unique project because it values the tribes’ cultures, traditions and practices,” Espejo said.

Kalahi-CIDSS, originally implemented in 2002, is one of the government’s poverty-alleviation programs that uses the community-driven development approach to empower communities in targeted poor and disaster-affected municipalities. The World Bank, one of the funders, claimed the project led to improvements in basic service delivery.

In Mindanao, the government has allotted P500 million for the construction of 315 school buildings for IP areas implemented by DSWD in five regions. (Hilbert Estacion / DSWD)

NEW CLASSROOM T’boli school children of Maan village in T’boli, South Cotabato now enjoy their new school building, a far cry from their old and dilapidated makeshift room being utilized for many years.

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Nearly 12K families delisted from DSWD’s 4Ps list in Central Mindanao

CCT beneficiaries are seen during family development session in General Santos City, November 2013.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Nearly 12,000 families have been removed by the
state’s humanitarian agency from its cash transfer scheme as their well-being dramatically improved,  the agency’s senior official reported Thursday.

Cezario Joel Espejo, regional director of Department of Social Welfare
and Development (DSWD), said that in the last five years at least 11,501 families were purged from the office database, citing they
waived their inclusion after their life condition changed from survival to self sufficient, meaning they need no outside help in satisfying their basic needs.

Of the total figure, 3,787 were recorded in North Cotabato; 543 in Cotabato City; 819 recorded in General Santos City; 937 in Marawi City; 1,960 in Sarangani; 2,281  in Sultan Kudarat and 1,224 in South

Other reasons, according to Dir. Espejo, they no longer have family members who are qualified, fraud issues and non-poor cases.

Last year alone, Dir. Espejo said about least 2,395 families were delisted from the roaster of registered beneficiaries.

“We are cleansing our list so that only those qualified and rightful beneficiaries can avail of the program. With the help of our field workers that those removed from the program have either steady incomes, included erroneously, or have no qualified children,” Dir. Espejo explained.

Across the region, the agency has 217,000 total households covered under 4Ps, the government’s national poverty reduction strategy also known as conditional cash transfer.

Dir. Espejo’s revelation on delisting of non-qualified beneficiaries came a month after  the agency, along with partners, signed the IRR of the 4Ps law or Republic Act (RA) 11310  where from PHP500 worth of health grant per month, the program will now provide PHP750 assistance
per month.

On education grant, clients will get P300 per month for each elementary student and daycare, P500 per month for each junior high
school student and P700 for those in senior high school. A health and nutrition grant of not lower than P750 per month for a maximum of 12 months will also be given to the beneficiaries.

In April last year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the 4Ps  law that will ensure qualified poor households like  the farmers, fishermen, homeless families, indigenous peoples, those from the informal sector, and those living in isolated and disadvantaged areas, including places without electricity,  for a maximum period of seven years in the
program. (JBM / DSWD)

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