Ambassador Rod Smith
Visit to Institute ACT for Peace site
26 June 2008, 1645H-1745H
Tienda Aplaya, Digos City
• On behalf of the Australian Government, let me thank you for welcoming us here in your community. I am fortunate that in my first site visit since I arrived last March, I am able to meet some of the Filipino men, women and children that Australia’s aid program is assisting in Mindanao.
• It is a source of pride that Australia has been the largest contributor to the Government of the Philippines-UN Multi Donor Program to support the 1996 MNLF Peace Agreement.
• It is worth noting that since the program started in 1997, there are now 263 peace and development communities, which, like yours, are starting to reap the benefits of a peaceful, stable environment in terms of increased access to basic social and health services and livelihood opportunities.
• Here in Barangay Aplaya, I understand that peace and security condition is stable and your community has not been affected by armed conflict since becoming a peace and development community 10 years ago.
• With the active support of your provincial and local government leaders, as well as the able leadership of your Peace and Development Advocates (PDAs), your community’s progress is evident indeed with the presence now of a barangay health station, improved roads and drainage system, various livelihood enterprises, and information and communication technology facilities.
• Let me just also acknowledge your immense contribution as members of the community so that the important task of building trust and confidence, between former rebels, civil society and the government could progress. The foundations for peace and development have indeed been well laid.
• In closing let me note that Australia’s commitment to peace and development in Mindanao is reflected in the fact that close to 50 percent of Australia’s Development Assistance to the Philippines, our fourth largest program in the world, is allocated to the Southern Philippines. As a long-time development partner, Australia will continue to support this critical peace and development challenge.
• Once again, my congratulations to our development partners in Mindanao. I wish the program implementors, provincial and local government and community leaders success in every way possible.
• Mabuhay and thank you once again for your warm welcome.