U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg visited Sulu last June 2 to assess the American government’s peace and development cooperation programs in the predominantly Muslim-populated province.
During the visit, the US envoy discussed with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines officials on how Washington and Manila can continue to work together to promote peace and security.
He also met with U.S. troops who are in Jolo temporarily to advise and assist the Philippine Armed Forces on counter-insurgency operations.
He also spent some time with a small group of alumni of U.S. government youth exchange programs to hear about their experiences, and discuss how they contribute to their communities through volunteerism.
The United States Government has a number of ongoing programs that benefit the people of Jolo. Since 2004, a total of 40 young people from Jolo have benefited from U.S. Department of State exchange programs such as the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, a one-year high school exchange program and the Philippine Youth Leadership Program, a month-long training focused on conflict resolution and interfaith tolerance.
Peace and Stability
Sulu Island is also a primary focus area for a United States Department of Justice program to help build capacity within the PNP. The program has worked with the PNP to train approximately 1,300 PNP officers (a number of whom originate from Sulu) in areas such as community policing, media relations, basic police operations, and crime scene investigation.
It also helped establish a PNP Training Center in Jolo, so that PNP officers can receive training locally, instead of having to travel to Manila or elsewhere.
In addition, as part of the U.S. Government’s support for peace, stability, and good governance in the Philippines, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working in Sulu Province, Jolo City and Maimbung Town to build local capacity for better delivery of education and health services, and has an ongoing project to support increased engagement between communities and local governments.
Meanwhile, Denise Rollins, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Assistant Administrator (AA) for Asia, will visit the Philippines June 6-11, the US embassy in Manila announced Friday.
The visit aims to reinforce the U.S. Government’s commitment to the Partnership for Growth – a bilateral agreement with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) to achieve broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth in the country.
Accompanied by USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria D. Steele, AA Rollins will visit program sites and engage with local leaders and families that represent the wide scope of USAID’s work, from government officials, to business and community pioneers, to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
Ms. Rollins will first visit Cagayan de Oro City (CDO) to see ongoing developments under the U.S. Embassy Manila’s USAID Cities Development Initiative (CDI).
USAID selected CDO, along with the cities of Batangas and Iloilo, as a pilot to ignite secondary cities as engines of economic growth.
CDI, as part of the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth, seeks to promote economic development outside Metro Manila to disperse economic opportunities and enable the country to accelerate and sustain higher, broad-based inclusive growth.
“We are working in partnership with local officials, the private sector and civil society to address concerns in education, health, energy, environment, economic growth and governance,” Director Steele said.
USAID Rebuild in Leyte
Next on the agenda, AA Rollins will visit Tacloban City, Leyte to formally launch USAID Rebuild, the U.S. Government’s rehabilitation and recovery program in Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas, particularly Leyte Province.
USAID Rebuild, which will be implemented in partnership with the Philippine government, focuses on restoring access to education, health services and livelihood activities, as well as providing technical assistance to the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.
Rollins will also witness a USAID-supported twinning agreement for disaster risk reduction and management activities between the provinces of Albay and Leyte.
USAID aims to assist the province build back better through programs that will enable communities to become more resilient to future disasters.
Overall, U.S. Government support is estimated at approximately US$142.5 million to help the people
of the Philippines respond to, and recover from, the devastating effects of Typhoon Yolanda.
In Manila, AA Rollins will lead events highlighting USAID’s increasing focus on science, technology, innovation, and partnerships.
These activities are expected to help the country leapfrog stages of development and join the next generation of developing nations.
Events will include a workshop to improve the use of mobile technology for development solutions, and the awarding of USAID grants to select local civil society organizations to carry-out innovative projects in targeted development areas.