PEF Opens Zamboanga Office To Hasten Development Projects in ZAMBASULTA

WITH majority of the country’s poorest provinces located in Mindanao, the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) has given priority assistance to the region by opening an area office in Zamboanga City, the second in the South after Davao City’s.

PEF Executive Director Veronica Villavicencio led in the inauguration of the ZAMBASULTA area office, located at La Vina Hotel, last June 24. The event was graced by other PEF officers and partners.

Villavicencio has said that “PEF’s commitment towards reducing poverty is hinged on a vision of empowered communities that are able to meet (its development strategies) in an atmosphere of social harmony, cooperation and sharing access to basic needs, engagement in productive socio-cultural and economic activities and a meaningful participation in governance”.

Area Manager Mayen Olmedo told PeaceWorks that PEF plans to invest P12-million in anti-poverty community projects in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago provinces this year. Majority of these projects are in housing, health and sanitation and education. The foundation has implemented water supply projects in areas like Tungawan and Jolo and training of out of school youths in Basilan, she said.

PEF has also completed poverty mapping of several towns and cities in the region, she said. These maps help the foundation determine which areas are in most need of its projects.

Projects are also prioritized where local counterpart equity is readily available. “The PEF believes that this (anti-poverty vision) can be further achieved with its new Localization Strategy, one which allows stakeholders to link up on a global scale while thinking and acting at the localized level”, Villavicencio has said.

A PEF report said the localization strategy is facilitated in Mindanao by partnering with business, local governments, donor agencies and communities. A mix of loans and grants is seen as the best type of financial support to local partners to make the most impact on poverty reduction, the report added. Learning from and adopting best practices is likewise the “type of assistance to partners that will improve their institutional and project management capabilities”.

PEF has been serving the region in the past three years through the Zamboanga Partnership and Access Center (ZPAC), headed by Fr. Angel Calvo. A number of local civil society groups are linked to the center to help implement community development projects.

Zamboanga del Norte has been identified by PEF as among the poorest province in the Philippines.

In a survey conducted last year by Pulse Asia, a PEF report said, “the verdict (is) the poor had a tougher life in 2007 than in 2006.” With the spiraling prices of commodities this year, the situation of poor families have certainly gotten worse.

The survey noted that “68 percent of adult Filipinos felt that their families were either poor or very poor. At the individual level, the quality of life has deteriorated notably for college graduates and a relatively young group (25-34 are group). On the national scale, the urban poor especially felt their quality of life has worsened.”

PEF provides financial and technical assistance particularly for basic services, livelihood enterprises, capacity building and calamity relief.

Livelihood support aims “to increase access to capital and support services for livelihood and enterprise activities, particularly in microfinancing, business development, appropriate technology, and marketing. While loans are given to income-generating projects, a small portion of the funds can be given as grants to improve clients’ enterprise skills and strengthen their organization”.

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