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Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Area Coordination Center and Fire Station Dedicated

JOLO CITY, Philippines -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Joint Task Force Comet and the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines’ Task Force Sulu turned over the Sulu Provincial Area Coordination Center and the Jolo Fire Station to the community of Jolo City Aug. 17.

Hundreds of Joloanos joined Sulu provincial leadership, military commanders, and U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney during ceremonies for both projects, which are the largest construction projects undertaken by JSOTF-P and the AFP in Sulu province. Both will serve Jolo City and neighboring barangays as well.

“The coordination center provides us with a morale boost,” said Fazlur-Rahnan A. Abdulla, Executive Director of the Sulu Provincial ACC. “We wanted it to be a center for peace and development.”

The 702 sq. meter building cost $492,000. It is a unique structure in Sulu because it contains all the functions of the provincial government in one building. This enables all the councils in the Sulu Provincial governor’s chamber to meet in a single location.

“It is a forum where citizens can exercise freedom of speech and work out solutions. It’s a one-stop shop for everybody,” Abdulla said.

According to Task Force Sulu’s engineer, 1st Lt. Gene Bentley, the building was designed specifically for the Sulu capital.

“A two-story building is not typical construction,” Bentley said. “Normally a coordination center consists of four smaller buildings, but this fits everything into one structure.”

“I hope that this building is a sign of continuing partnership and coordination,” Abdulla said. “The military is a great help to us here. Task Force Sulu and Task Force Comet are two of our strong partners in the provincial government.”

At the turn-over of the Jolo Fire Station, emergency response personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Jolo Emergency Rescue Network accepted the $392,000 million peso structure. The new 701.5 sq meter building has two stories plus a mezzanine level.

“We are very much thankful for our station here,” said Beldazar Saradain, an emergency responder serving with the BFP. “It reflects our desire to serve, and it will also increase our efficiency,” he added.

In addition to the turnover ceremonies, USAID officials from the Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills (EQuALLS) program, held a book fair for the teachers and students of Sulu.

Task Force Sulu and Joint Task Force Comet personnel helped move 220,000 books to the site the day before. They also provided security during the book fair so students and teachers could browse through the selection.

“We are very thankful that JSOTF-P and AFP were able to help us out,” said Ina Aquino, Education Specialist for the EQuALLS project. “With all the pallets it would have taken us ten days to set up for the fair.”

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