By Corina Oliquino

MANILA –The Department of Finance (DoF) in a press statement, confirmed Qatar Fund for Development’s (QFFD) openness in exploring opportunities for development cooperation in the country,

In a meeting with a visiting delegation from QFFD last year led by senior advisor Samer Frangieh, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III said areas that would benefit immensely from Qatar’s support include the government’s capacity-building efforts for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao BARMM, peace building, the normalization of the peace process, Islamic banking, education, fisheries development, rural infrastructure development, health care, disaster risk reduction and management and the energy sector.

Dominguez noted QFFD’s commitment to provide assistance to sectors that are most in need in the country bodes well for the government’s “ongoing efforts to assist BARMM” in terms of implementing long-term projects which would serve as “beacons of hope” for those living in impoverished communities.

He said the initiatives will ensure BARMM residents the creation of the new Bangsamoro government would bring tangible benefits and real change, appointing DoF Undersec. Mark Joven to discuss with the Qatari government the possibility of arranging a framework agreement between the Philippines and Qatar to ensure their seamless bilateral cooperation.

“We have the BARMM now, so what does it mean to the ordinary person in the region? I think it’s very important that we take this opportunity very quickly to show a real change in people’s lives. They have to see that they have water, electricity, their fishing capacity is better, the ability to process their food is better. They have better nutrition, they have better schools,” Dominguez said.

In a report by The Philippine Star, the assistance will also support initiatives to bring former rebels to the economic mainstream.

“The purpose of this visit for our delegation is to put all the minds together into one place and come up with an intervention development strategy,” Frangieh said.

“We will put our words into action and hopefully we will be reaching out to the various departments to indicate and ensure that the priorities are properly set,” he added.

The DoF said Frangieh has also committed to participate with other Qatari agencies to explore ways of funding other BARMM projects beyond QFFD’s mandates and capabilities.

Moreover, he also offered Qatar’s assistance and expertise on disaster and risk management to help the government better respond to calamities, particularly after the earthquake in North Cotabato. Sixty-three of the province’s barangays are part of the Bangsamoro region.

“The Qatar Red Crescent Society earlier partnered with the Philippine National Red Cross in providing humanitarian aid to earthquake and typhoon victims in the country,” the DoF stated.

BARMM Minister for Finance Budget and Management Eduard Guerra also welcomed QFFD’s offer of assistance, which includes helping some 40,000 former rebels get into the economic mainstream.

BARMM Minister for the Interior Government Naguib Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro government is planning to transform rebel camps into “economic-producing areas.”

Dominguez said the Philippines is looking forward to more areas of cooperation with the Qatari government.

“We are encouraging more investments in this region to improve the lives of its people in underserved island communities,” he said.