US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney on Monday inaugurated two completed major USAID-funded infrastructure projects in Basilan, where soldiers are hunting down Abu Sayyaf militants for the beheading of 10 marines two months ago.
Kenney together with senior USAID and provincial and local government officials inaugurated the Maluso Port and Matarling Bridge in Lantawan and bared more development projects for the island province.
The two inaugurated projects were among 40 regional Infrastructure Projects built by GEM - in partnership with local and provincial governments - across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas in the island region.
The US official said the projects would support the economic growth in Mindanao and demonstrate the continuing commitment of both the Philippines and US governments to fostering peace and development in the region.
In the past, due to the absence of adequate facilities for handling larger vessels, commercial goods from Zamboanga had to go through the port of Isabela, and were then transported, via a 1½ hour land trip to the town.
The Matarling Bridge ensures the faster, more efficient and less expensive transport of people and goods traversing the Isabela City-Lantawan-Maluso route. The new facility replaced a 42-year old one–lane bridge.
It complements improvements being to the Lantawan Circumferential Road. Economic activity in the area has significantly increased with the completion and full utilization of the new road and bridge. The facility is also expected to help increase local and foreign investment in Basilan.
These two inaugurated projects were undertaken in partnership with the national, regional, provincial and municipal governments. They were under the Regional Impact Infrastructure Program (RIP) of Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM).
Each of the projects constructed by GEM is designed to spur economic development within a specific region of Mindanao.
In an interview, Kenney told reporters the US government through USAID's Growth with Equity (GEM) is working on another bridge, water system and schools in Basilan.
"The plans we have, they're short term concrete ones. We are building a bridge near Lamitan, and water system for Sumisip and the 14 schools, which we are putting praticall facilities, including science laboratories," she said.
"And next what we wanna do with our new agreement in Mindanao is work with the mayor, promote business and commerce and jobs," the lady ambassador added.
Earlier, Ambassador Kenney with British Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Beckingham visited Jolo, Sulu to unveil a huge package of development projects in the island province in an effort to help Philippine government bring peace and progress in Mindanao.