The European Union is keen to boost its support for Mindanao as it remains a "committed partner" in the Philippines' quest for peace and development in the restive region, its representative to the country has said.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen made the statement at the recent closing ceremony of the Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program in Davao City.
"[The] EU is a reliable, impartial and committed partner in the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao. It remains steadfast in its resolve to continue strengthening this partnership in the future," said Jessen.
He said the bloc is planning to "step up considerably" its support for the southern region, and is crafting a new program to be signed with the government next year "to help consolidate peace and development through confidence building measures and inclusive growth."
The EU envoy expressed Europe's commitment to the Philippines despite President Duterte's acerbic statements towards the bloc, largely for criticism of his bloody war on drugs.
Recently, the EU approved a fresh contribution of over P200-million for the next 18 months in support of the peace process. It is also working with the Philippine government to develop a "comprehensive peace and development program" for Mindanao.
The additional aid will support the Philippine government "the monitoring of the situation, to diffuse tensions on the ground and to create a more inclusive political platform that will bring together Mindanao's diverse population."
The EU contributes 80 percent to the Mindanao Trust Fund, a multi-donor grant facility for the socio-economic recovery of conflict-affected communities of Mindanao.
For over a decade, the fund has brought more than 500 community projects to 650,000 people in 316 conflict-affected communities across Mindanao, the EU said.