KIDAPAWAN, North Cotabato — North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza officially opened the weeklong 2018 Kalivungan Festival on Sunday with the distribution of financial grants to drivers and families of soldiers killed in fighting against communist rebels in the province.

Mendoza led the distribution of checks to families of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action in the government’s fight against the New People’s Army (NPA). Some beneficiaries received PHP100,000 for the repair of their houses while others received PHP250,000 for house and lot.

Mendoza said the provincial government also set aside PHP12.98 million for the province’s “Pasada Kontra Droga” to assist tricycle, habal-habal or skylab (passenger motorcycles) drivers.

Under the program, Mendoza said, drivers will be trained to run a motor shop and will get repair tools for operation in a bid to discourage them from engaging in illegal drugs.

Mendoza said Pasada is in support of the anti-illegal drugs campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, targeting 14,267 beneficiaries from across 17 municipalities and one city in North Cotabato. The program is distributed to recipients through duly-registered organizations.

Mendoza, however, said the government will be piloting the program in Makilala town. If successful, the program will extend to other municipalities.

She said this will ensure that money will not go to waste.

In her message during the opening ceremonies for the “Kalivungan Festival” at The Basket, Capitol Compound in Amas, Kidapawan City, Mendoza said the program is intended for the provincial government’s war on drugs.

“Ayaw mo pag droga kay ang inyong gidala buhi (Don’t involve in illegal drugs because you are responsible for the lives of your passengers),” she stressed.

Mendoza, who also led the distribution of grants to small traders under the province’s Serbisyong Totoo Entrepreneurial Program (STEP), urged all recipients to use the assistance given to them wisely.

The distribution of financial grants and assistance highlighted the opening of the festival, which was also graced by Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong” Go.

“Wish we will continue to be united. Our success today lies in a commitment to serve. May election o wala (With or without elections) we will sincerely serve,” said Mendoza, who was also grateful for Go’s acceptance of the province’s invitation.

Kalivungan Festival, which means a gathering of people, showcases North Cotabato’s diverse cultures, traditions and way of life. The festival will end on September 1. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)

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