Japan grant to benefit BARMM

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THE GOVERNMENT of Japan has approved a grant of $5.5 million to the United Nations Refugee Agency to digitalize and improve access to birth registration services for former combatants and indigenous people in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

During the ceremonial exchange of diplomatic notes of the grant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Head of National Office Maria Ermina Valdeavilla-Gallardo in Pasay City, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Endo Kazuya said that the BARMM only has a birth registration rate of 77%, which he says would limit access to social services.

“Japan supports developing governance, social services, infrastructure and livelihood improvement in the region,” he said.

“This project seeks to offer easier access to birth registration and documentation, to those especially lacking access to them, namely indigenous, Sama Bajau people,” he added.

Ms. Valdeavilla-Gallardo said the initiative would allow children, former combatants, and other unregistered citizens to gain access to education, social welfare, and to fast-track the delivery of basic government services.

In a statement, the UNHCR said the project would directly benefit 30,000 citizens in BARMM and 100,00 indirectly, with about 800,000 expected to benefit from the birth registration program in the next decade.

“You are opening an enormous development pathway for a child,” Gustavo Gonzales, UN resident country coordinator in the Philippines, said at the same event. “This is something that immediately gives you the possibility to have hope, to have a future, to be recognized as a citizen and to belong to this beautiful country.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez