By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY — The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governance, through its Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development for Growth and Empowerment (BRIDGE) program has assured economic aids to help generate livelihood in Maguindanao villages where poverty makes residents vulnerable to recruitment by violent religious radicals propagating hatred against the government.
A report from the office of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said the workers for the BRIDGE program are assessing business proposals from barangays in 17 Maguindanao towns on entrepreneurial ventures benefiting marginalized residents.
The BRIDGE program, which Hataman organized three years ago, is widening its focus on providing water, food, shelter and electricity in villages to include ARMM-funded entrepreneurial activities that would help the Duterte administration address threats of terror-bound extremism, the report said.
While the program was designed to cover all the five provinces and two cities in ARMM, its innovative component would prioritize Maguindanao, which the military hierarchy has scheduled for coverage by anti-terror campaign after the five-month offensives against militants in Marawi City.
In a statement over the weekend, BRIDGE officials said they started evaluating last month the business proposals from barangays in Datu Saudi, Talayan, Talitay, Datu Paglas, Montawal, Guindulungan, Ampatuan, General SK Pendatun, South Upi, Mamasapano, Sultan Sa Barongis, Pandag, Abdullah Sangki, Pagalungan and Kabuntalan towns in Maguindanao.
They said the program would source out funds for the seed money of approved business proposals “in keeping with the government campaign for empowerment in poor communities.”
Underdevelopment, illiteracy and poverty in far-flung areas are blamed for the proliferation of violent religious stride by radicals fanning hatred against government and non-Muslims, using social deficiencies as talking points.
Program workers said their assessment process includes a study of the viability of the proposed trades, availability of raw materials and investment returns based on business applicability.
They said most of the initial business proposals from villagers in 17 Maguindanao towns seek capitals for small-scale grocery stores, bakery, fishing, tailoring and product of fast foods and fruit juices.
Major General Arnel Del Vega, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu welcomed the BRIDGE program intervention, noting that the 17 towns mulled for coverage are objects of a faction in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) espousing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ideology.
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