LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines- Symbolizing a new beginning and the commitment to provide quality facilities for undergraduates in Lanao Del Sur, more than 500 educators, local residents and the U.S. and Philippine forces celebrated the dedication of two reconstructed school facilities at Lanao Agricultural College March 1.

More than 800 students attend the high school and college on campus and many of the facilities are in need of renovations. Due to limited funding at the college, facilities are run down and often in need of repairs, according to School Assistant Superintendent Paino C. Alib.

"We are so grateful for this project and all those who came together to build this for us. The children here just love it. The AFP, the PNP [Philippine National Police] and U.S. forces, we just thank all of you for this building," said Mamintal G. Razuman, mayor of Lumbatan City.

A U.S. Navy Construction Electrician 1st Class led a team of 15 U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, which partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and school officials to build the classrooms.

The project took six months to complete and was made possible through the cooperative efforts of the U.S. Navy Seabees, School Superintendent Arimao S. Asum, soldiers from the Philippines 103rd Infantry Army Brigade that provided convoy security and local contractors who put up the roofing.

The seven-million-peso project includes the college's main 5,800 square-foot building and a 1,000 square-foot science building. The buildings contain eight white-and-brown classrooms already in use since December.

The structures include a septic system, electrical power distribution, lighting, fans and a generator. There is also a separate comfort room (bathroom) and prayer room, as many of the students are Muslim and wanted a room for daily prayers.

"This ceremony is an example of what can happen when individuals from all of these different groups and organizations come together with one final purpose; it is truly an amazing happening. It is exciting for all of us involved. This really means that anything is possible," said a U.S. Army Special Forces officer in charge for the Marawi area.

Science posters of different plants now hang on the walls, with newly-stained brown desks and freshly-scrubbed chalkboards. A posted schedule on each classroom designates certain students responsible for the upkeep of the classrooms, which includes sweeping each room and the gardening around the outside of the buildings.

As humanitarian projects with the Armed Forces of the Philippines are a cornerstone of the JSOTF-P mission, the school was a way both militaries could help the people in the community and provide them with better facilities for their growth and education.

Officials from the college, officers with the AFP's 103rd Infantry Brigade, and members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines cut the ribbon in front of the school, officially turning the school over to college administers.

At the ribbon-cutting, several prominent community leaders spoke, including Brig. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, who took a moment to reflect on what the construction of the school meant to him and the community.

"This is the third largest construction project in Lanao Del Sur. These are important ties that we have with the Philippine and U.S. government. This project is an example of the progress we want to make here, and we are grateful for the military forces that helped make this progress happen," he said.

After the ceremony, members of the 103rdt Brigade led a book donation drop off, which resulted in 1,200 science and other textbooks for the school.

"What we have accomplished here is truly something worth celebrating. The potential for something even greater cannot be ignored," said a U.S. Army Special Forces officer.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16