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Finland pledges continued support to PH peace process

DAVAO CITY (October 2, 2018) — The Philippines’ peacebuilding initiatives continue to receive recognition and draw in strong support from other countries.

This was evident as Finland Ambassador to the Philippines Petri Puhakka paid a courtesy call on Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on Monday at the Marco Polo Hotel in this city.

During their discussion, Dureza briefed Puhakka on the Comprehensive Philippine Peace Process, particularly on the salient provisions of the recently-passed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and how the landmark measure will impact on the lives of the people in the region.

“We are now at the (information and education) campaign stage. We want people to better understand (the law),” Dureza said.

He said he is confident the Bangsamoro people will vote for the passage of the landmark measure in the plebiscite scheduled in January 2019.

“I have very high expectations (it will be supported) by the people,” he said.

The two officials also discussed possible areas of collaboration between their respective countries.

These include a proposal in which Finland would provide capacity-building assistance to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“We really need your help to capacitate the people,” Dureza said.

He said the Philippines’ peace process should not mainly focus on peace talks but on the creation of more economic opportunities for the people.

“We need to improve the lives of people. Development is very important,” he said.

Dureza likewise underscored the need to involve civil society in the peace and development process.

“There should always be inclusiveness in our work for peace. We need to make people feel that they don’t need to resort to violence for them to be noticed by government,” he said.

Dureza also briefed Puhakka on the status of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front, which had been cancelled by President Rodrigo Duterte.

He said, however, that the door for talks with the rebel group are “still open” and could resume once there is an “enabling environment.”

In the meantime, he said the President has authorized local government officials to conduct localized peace engagements with the rebels.

“Local leaders know the situation on the ground,” he said.

Dureza thanked the ambassador for the assistance Finland has been providing to the Philippines over the years.

“Thank you very much for your help. Your support will go a long way,” he said.

For his part, Puhakka assured Dureza of his country’s continued support for the Philippines’ quest for lasting peace and sustainable development.

“We are happy to do our part to help,” Puhakka said, noting that change will not happen overnight. “The people will need to manage their expectations,” he said.

The meeting between the two officials was facilitated by the Non-Violent Peace Force, an international non-profit organization that encourages dialogue among parties involved in armed conflict. ###

By | October 2nd, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Gov’t, MILF use basketball to promote BOL

LINAMON, Lanao del Norte, October 1, 2018 – Government troopers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fought each other in a friendly sporting match here on Sunday to promote the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Allan Almoite, area manager of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for Northern Mindanao, said the initiative of using basketball to disseminate the objective of the BOL comes directly from the civil society organizations, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the MILF.

“The idea here is to use a new approach or a creative way to educate the people of the essence of the BOL. And to show to the people on the ground that the government and the MILF are on the same page in promoting peace,” he said.

Around 65 peace players composed of the Army’s 2nd, 4th, and 5th Infantry Brigades, police officers, and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) battled their way not through the barrel of the gun but through basketball and other sporting events to show unity and harmony.

Almoite said local leaders and villagers will not only get to witness and be entertained by the games but will also be informed of the salient points and provisions of the law.

The BOL was passed and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill his campaign promise to implement all the signed peace agreements between the government and the Moro fronts.

The law seeks to establish a new political structure in the expanded territory for the Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao.

A plebiscite will be held on January 21, 2019 in the current areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The cities of Cotabato and Isabela, and the province of Lanao del Norte for its six municipalities, and the province of North Cotabato for its 39 barangays will also be part of the plebiscite to determine their inclusion in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Contiguous areas interested to join the BARMM may submit a petition two months before the scheduled plebiscite.

The sports events on Sunday were just among the series scheduled in the entire province of Lanao del Norte.

The event was launched as part of the celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month that ended on Sunday. ###

By | October 1st, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

National Peace Consciousness Month: Stories of hope, courage, and peace-building

DAVAO CITY (October 1, 2018) — For 15 young members of the Ata Manobo tribe, the culmination program of National Peace Consciousness Month on September 28 was both a day of celebration and of mourning.

With Davao City hosting the event, the scholars of the national government’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) came down from the hinterlands of Talaingod, Davao del Norte to tell their story.

Garbed in traditional dress, they stood teary-eyed onstage at the Rizal Park as they sang in their native language their gratitude to the national government for the assistance it had given them.

They also paid tribute to a fallen comrade, the 16th scholar who was abducted and killed by unidentified assailants after delivering rice to a military camp.

According to friends and relatives, he was a responsible, hard-working lad who dreamed of giving his family a better life.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza was highly emotional while narrating the unfortunate incident to more than 600 people attending the event.

“(This was) done by a group that has no objective but to sow fear and terror in the hearts (of people),” Dureza said.

“It shows the extent of what those who want to create trouble would go just to make their point clear,” he added.

Dureza, however, said the passing of the young man should not dishearten people but instead serve as an inspiration to all.

This was exactly what the 15 remaining PAMANA scholars did: despite the painful loss of their friend, they still proceeded with their trip to Davao City to participate in the Peace Month celebration.

“They did not surrender their ground. They are examples of what every citizen should do,” Dureza said.

“They are the inspiration we should all (emulate). They are the future,” he added.

Dureza said the task of addressing the various peace and security challenges confronting the nation should not be the sole responsibility of government.

“We in government can’t do this alone. We can provide the leadership, we can create a convergence of efforts, but ultimately, the people out there will have to do it,” he said.

In order to bring about this synergy of efforts among stakeholders, Dureza said he seeks guidance from no less than President Duterte who named him Presidential Peace Adviser more than two years ago.

“President Duterte’s first marching order to us at OPAPP when he assumed office was for us to do a peace and development roadmap,” he said.

Dureza said the roadmap would serve as the “nexus” of the Duterte administration’s Peace and Development Agenda.

He noted that the work for peace should not be confined to peace negotiations with the various rebel groups and addressing security issues, saying that is “only half of the job.”

“The other, bigger, more important part is development. We cannot sustain peace if we don’t have development that will improve the lives of people,” Dureza said.

“Conversely, we cannot sustain development even if we provide a lot of assistance. If there is conflict, nothing will happen,” he added.

Dureza emphasized that peace and development “must happen simultaneously” and not take place one after the other.

Moreover, he said the government must not only focus on the signing of peace agreements but, more importantly, look at the triggers of conflict.

“Let us analyze. Why are there a lot of people rebelling against government? Some of them… their children don’t go to school… they are poor. They feel they are looked upon as enemies,” Dureza said.

He noted that most of those who are engaged in armed struggle are not motivated by ideology but by their current economic conditions.

“They feel that their needs are not being attended to, that they have been forgotten,” Dureza said.

He said this is the rationale behind the whole-of-government approach wherein all national government agencies are closely working with each other to provide socio-economic services particularly to residents in remote and underdeveloped areas.

“The whole-of-nation approach of government is that…they (agencies) are all converging together,” Dureza said.

“We have to work together to have sustainable peace and development,” he added. ###

By | October 1st, 2018|News, PAMANA, Peace Month|0 Comments

OPAPP to lead culmination of Peace Consciousness Month in Davao

DAVAO CITY, September 27 – A peace concert, the unveiling of a peace quilt, and a motorcade are just some of the activities lined for the celebration to culminate the month-long observance of the National Peace Consciousness Month in this city on Friday.

The Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the government agency tasked to lead the peace month celebration, along with the Mindanao Peace Council and other various groups, will spearhead the culmination event at Rizal Park, located right at the heart of this city.

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus G. Dureza said the event is part of the government’s effort to sustain peace initiatives throughout the country.

“We must focus on our common goal, and that is to help create an enabling environment where sustainable peace and genuine development can take root. To do this, we must set aside our personal agenda and work for the common good. Difficult as it may seem, we can achieve this – peace by piece,” he said.

A motorcade will kick-off the culmination event at 2:00 PM. It will start at Magsaysay Park and will make its way along the main thoroughfares of the city to drum up the peace campaign onto Rizal Park.

Dureza will lead the ceremony by presenting the “State of Peace Process” under the Duterte administration.

Among the highlights of the event is the unveiling of the “People’s Aspiration for Peace.” It is a peace quilt made of various painted canvases stitched together to form a huge work of peace art. Each quilt was collected throughout the country, painted by various sectors, including victims of the armed conflict in Marawi City.

Participants are also expected to take a “Pledge for Peace” that will be led by Peace Ambassador Farahnaz Ali Ghodsinia, who is currently president of the 10th National Youth Parliament, the biggest parliamentary organization for youth in the Philippines.

Wrapping up the event is the Huni sa Kalinaw (Peace Concert) with the participation of various artists in Davao City.

OPAPP has been leading the National Peace Consciousness Month since 2004 by virtue of Proclamation No. 675, declaring the month of September as Peace Month.

The objective of the month-long celebration is to instill greater consciousness and understanding among the Filipino people on the comprehensive peace process.

It also aims to sustain institutional and popular support for the building of a culture of peace in the country.

This year’s theme is “Mithiing Kapayapaan, Sama-samang Isakatuparan,” with the carrier tagline “Peace Na Tayo.” ###

By | September 27th, 2018|News, Peace Month|0 Comments

Bangsamoro youth leaders commit to peacebuilding

COTABATO CITY, September 21, 2018 – “We want to contribute in the Bangsamoro once it is established so that the legislators can see that the youth have a place in all this.”

This was the sentiment of 22-year-old Bryan Gonzales at the close of the three-day “MasterPEACE: Bangsamoro Youth Model Parliament” held in this city.

Gonzales, a member of the National Society of Parliamentarians (NPS), joined around 80 other Bangsamoro youth leaders in manifesting their commitment to building a culture of peace in the Bangsamoro region during the summit, which concluded today.

“Ang maganda dito (summit), sa kabubuuan ng Bangsamoro region, represented ang lahat ng kabataan at naririnig ang kanilang boses,” he said.

(The good thing about  this summit is that the youth sector of the entire Bangsamoro region is well-represented and their voices are heard.)

The summit included a simulation program in which the participants acted as district representatives, party representatives, and sectoral representatives under the prospective Bangsamoro Parliament.

The Bangsamoro youth discussed critical issues in peacebuilding as they crafted and deliberated on proposed bills at the committee level and plenary sessions.

‘Yong setup ng Bangsamoro Parliament is hard to facilitate because it is very different from Congress,” Gonzales said. “At least dito nakikita namin kung ano ‘yong mga pagkukulang, mga procedural issues na p’wede ma-resolve, and mag-introduce ng reforms.”

(The setup of the Bangsamoro Parliament is hard to facilitate because it is very different from Congress. At least in this simulation program, we can see which areas need improvement, what procedural issues need to be resolved, and what reforms we can introduce.)

One of the proposals made during the plenary session was the integration of conflict transformation and peacebuilding awareness through peace education in the Bangsamoro.

The proposed bills were turned over to the Regional Legislative Assembly through Assemblywoman Irene P. Tillah.

During her remarks, Youth Peace Ambassador Farrah Ghodsinia encouraged her fellow youth leaders to be proactive in promulgating peace in their respective regions.

“They have to hear our voice and we have to make our voice known because this future community that we have, this future region, it is we who are going to live in it. That is why we need to be active in achieving what we want to see,” she said.The “MasterPEACE: Bangsamoro Youth Model Parliament” is the third installment of the MasterPEACE series and is in line with the celebration of National Peace Consciousness Month every September.

It was spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, co-organized by the Democratic Leadership and Active Civil Society Empowerment (DELACSE) Bangsamoro, a European Union-funded project implemented by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines, and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance. It was done in partnership with the NSP. ###


By | September 22nd, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News, Peace Month|0 Comments