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'Biyaya' caravan warmly welcomed in Cotabato

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By Noel Punzalan (PNA)

COTABATO CITY – A crowd of some 200 Cotabateños welcomed on Thursday afternoon the four-vehicle convoy of the “Biyaya ng Pagbabago” caravan that came all the way from Marawi City.

The group made a stopover inside the compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) here at around 2:30 p.m. and was greeted by streamer-bearing Christian, Muslim and Lumad (indigenous people) supporters.

“It is always a happy day for us despite the long trips we had from Luzon, Visayas then Mindanao,” Catholic priest Fr. Jose Elmer Cajilig, Biyaya’s national secretariat and leader of the caravan, said.

Cajilig said the caravan only had a small number of vehicles since it would be difficult for them to travel at a fast pace and arrive on time for the Dec. 9 convergence in Davao City, which is expected to be attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The caravan jumped off from Ifugao province last Dec. 1 and arrived in Davao City on Dec. 8, a day before Biyaya’s launching event at Freedom Park.

“In every stopover we engaged supporters in a short talk and off we go again,” Cajilig said of their trips. In Marawi, he said they stayed for over an hour at the Mindanao State University before proceeding to this city.

Abdulrashid Ladayo Sr., Biyaya’s ARMM coordinator and Office of the Participatory Governance (OPG) Mindanao cluster head, said the “Biyaya ng Pagbabago" is a short tag for “Biyaya ng Pagbabago Tungo sa Masagana at Matiwasay na Buhay Pilipino,” a poverty alleviation program of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr.

The OPG, operating under the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, is tapped to promote, among others, active citizenship by directly engaging various sectors and stakeholders in governance through programs and projects that facilitate citizen empowerment.

“The Biyaya program supports the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan ‎2017-2022 under the Duterte administration to ease the poverty level in the country from 21 percent to 14 percent,” Ladayo said.

He said the Biyaya strategy aims to provide economic upliftment to 30 poorest families per barangay across the country for a total of six million beneficiaries within the next six months.

"You see, the poor needs to access the various social and economic services offered by the government delivered to the grassroots level of society, and we would be thoroughly introducing it to them now,” Ladayo stressed.

Ladayo said the Dec. 9 launch in Davao City is seen to congregate 100,000 Biyaya supporters nationwide.