SURIGAO CITY – Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza called on local officials and leaders of multi-stakeholder groups in Surigao provinces to organize local peace initiatives and strengthen community resilience to conflict in a peacebuilding conversation held here Monday (15 May) in time of the 116th Founding Anniversary of One Surigao.

Dureza visited Surigao City on Monday as part of the series of peacebuilding conversation and engagement with the general public referred to as the bigger peace table.

“People who want peace must fight for peace but do not leave that entirely to our local government officials, police and military forces. Citizens themselves must take the first step already, you must get yourselves organized, “he said in response to the key sectoral issues presented to him at the peace conversation, one of the highlights of Surigao’s foundation anniversary celebration held at the Provincial Gym.

He added that people and communities have the capacities to organize and transform conflict into opportunities for peace and local leaders should be able to strengthen this as a strategic priority for peacebuilding.

The key issues presented were the results of the multi-stakeholder peacebuilding conversation held 11 May in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte with over 150 representatives of civil society, IP, business sector, mining companies, lines agencies, religious sector and security sectors from all across Surigao.

Surigaonons pointed out major issues that the peace process has to address, among them are peace and security, environmental degradation, lack of livelihood and investment opportunities and need for more basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Amo untang hangyo sa gobyerno nga unta mapadayun tong panaghisgut sa kalinaw ug kahusay nga diin ang tribung Mamanwa nanag-iya ug nagpuyo sa amoang ancestral domain CADT 48 dinhi sa Surigao (We would like to appeal to the government to pursue peace and security efforts in CADT 48 area where the Mamawa tribe of Surigao live),” said Datu Emeliano Gede, leader of the Mamanwa tribe in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, in a dialogue with Secretary Dureza and local officials of Gigaquit.

Members of the Mamanwa tribe said the armed conflict between the NPAs and government security forces has been a major threat to ancestral domains in Surigao. During conflict, IPs are at risk of being killed, injured or tagged as members of the NPA.

Dureza said that the government’s peace work with various rebel groups is being actively pursued, simultaneous with the implementation of development programs and projects in fragile and conflict-affected communities.

“There is no magic formula to the peace process. You have to work for it one step at a time but let us not wait for the signing of the peace agreement as we may already do peace and development work while the peace negotiations is ongoing,” said Dureza.

During the One Surigao anniversary celebration, Secretary Dureza along with Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas and local officials also led the ceremonial unveiling and inauguration of the newly-completed “Tulay sa Kalinaw” LASICAM bridge located in Brgy. Lahi and Sico Sico, Gigaquit.

The Php210M bridge was implemented under the DILG – PAyapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program in Surigao del Norte which provides conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable communities in Gigaquit better access to social services and economic opportunities.

The One Surigao anniversary event and multi-stakeholder peace conversation in Surigao City was organized by the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte in partnership with OPAPP, National Commission for Indigenous Peoples Regional Office 13, and Municipal Local Governments of Gigaquit and Claver.

The event gathered local chief executives, including barangay captains of the three provinces – Surigao Del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Island.