DoH, DSWD heads to south to oversee ‘humanitarian offensive’

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Last updated 06:26pm (Mla time) 08/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has dispatched her health and social welfare chiefs to personally oversee the “humanitarian offensive” with which she intends to balance the one the military is waging against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu.


At the same time, Arroyo issued Administrative Order 192 ordering an engineering battalion of the Armed Forces to “beachhead in Sulu immediately. {Navy] Seabees shall on the other hand take care of Basilan.”


“Despite the recent hostilities, Basilan and Sulu are [by] no means a war zone,” the administrative order said. “Putting all national government initiatives in one package shall result in a comprehensive delivery of services.”


“The police and military operations in Basilan and Sulu shall be balanced with a full-scale offensive, a humanitarian invasion, so to speak,” it said.

Among Arroyo’s instructions are for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral to go to the southern Philippines “to ensure care and comfort of those who might be displaced”; to package all national government initiatives under a Health, Education, Livelihood, Progress (HELP) program for Sulu and Basilan; and to ask the private sector to sponsor and various agencies to back up this program.


Arroyo also instructed the Government Service Insurance System to respond to the problems of government employees who are unable to get loans, health insurance, and other benefits because their premiums have not been remitted to Manila.

The Professional Regulation Commission has also been instructed to go to Basilan and Sulu to administer examinations and documentation there while the Department of Education is to assist the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in hastening the construction and repair of more schools and shore up support for teachers.

Arroyo also ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways to fast-track work on several projects such as the bridge in Bongao town, the circumferential road in Isabela City and other road projects. The agency was also told to provide water facilities, through the Local Water Utilities Administration, to towns where less than 50 percent of population have access to running water.


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