SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, (16 September 2021) — The Senate’s Committee on Finance, Sub-Committee “C” approved on Wednesday the proposed budget of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) amounting to PHP 4.7 billion for fiscal year 2022.

“On behalf of the men and women of OPAPP, and all our peace partners and stakeholders, I would like to extend our deepest appreciation to the members of the Senate’s Committee on Finance for approving our agency’s budget at the committee level. I am confident that with the level of support given by our senators to the country’s peace process, our proposed budget will be approved at the plenary,” Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said.

Galvez highlighted the importance of this development, as this would enable the agency to effectively carry out its peacebuilding interventions amidst the threat of COVID-19.

“I would like to humbly reiterate to boost the funding of OPAPP’s most critical programs in support of the peace process. While our country faces immense challenges in the form of COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of millions of Filipinos should not be compromised by budgetary concerns,” he said during the hearing.

OPAPP’s proposed P4.7 billion budget is composed of the P 1.9 billion fund under the National Expenditure Program and P2.8 billion from Unfunded Programs, which will be subject for deliberation during the Senate’s plenary session.

The approved budget will fund OPAPP’s programs, projects and activities across all peace tables which include the Normalization Program for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro; completion of the Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front; localized peace engagements; and closure agreements with the KAPATIRAN (formerly known as the Rebolusyonaryong Partido Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncaya Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group) and the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army.

The budget will also fund socio-economic and development projects in conflict-vulnerable and conflict-affected communities through the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program and the Social Healing and Peacebuilding (SHAPE) Program.

OPAPP’s priority programs are anchored on the Duterte administration’s Six-Point Peace and Development Agenda, which aims to create an enabling environment for enduring peace and development to take root.

Senators’ full support to peace process

Senators attending the hearing threw their full support to the OPAPP’s peace building efforts, recognizing that the agency’s proposed budget will enable it to fulfill the commitments made by the national government under peace agreements signed with non-state armed groups.

“I would like to congratulate Secretary Galvez of OPAPP for your peace efforts na ginagawa in particular the whole government in general. I am just very proud to tell you na dahil sa mga barangay development projects, nasemento ang mga lugar, nawala ang mga NPA (New People’s Army), at masayang-masaya ang mga tao doon,” said Senate Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Finance, Sub-Committee “C.”

The Senate-approved OPAPP budget will include an updated timeline on the Bangsamoro peace process, particularly on the Normalization Program for the former MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces combatants.

“This Committee will be guided accordingly on where to focus because as of now, all the timelines that we are looking at are geared towards the 2022 exit agreement,” said Senator Francis Tolentino.

The senators also emphasized that the pandemic will not hinder the government from pushing forward the peace process.

“Of course, the peace process deserves to be supported. Pandemic or not, the peace process must move forward. Andito lang po kami (Senate) to help you,” Senator Koko Pimentel III said.

“Let’s keep the peace. Let’s keep the programs of peace going kaya sinuportahan po namin kayo Secretary Galvez,” said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

A commitment to the Filipino people

“I express my full support for the budget of OPAPP. Mindanao and its people have suffered decades of injustice and social inequity. The government must continuously strive to bring about the much needed reform and development in the Mindanao region,” Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said.

“During last year’s budget deliberation of the OPAPP, the original proposal was P8 billion for this current year — this 2021. But NEP instead recommended a miniscule amount of P89.5 million,” Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said.

“And since we both realized the seriousness of the commitment made by the government — commitment ‘to eh — so I recommended to the Senate Finance Committee the increase of funding of the program by 3.219 billion,” he added.

Galvez also acknowledged the Senate’s instrumental role in pushing forward the country’s peace process, particularly in the Bangsamoro region as evidenced by its passage of the BOL and recently, its approval of OPAPP’s proposed budget at the committee level.

“​​Napakalaki po talaga ng tulong ng Senado particularly ang pagka-ratify ng Bangsamoro Organic Law. Ang Senado, lalo na po si Senator Zubiri, siya po ang nagsulong at primary author kasama ang ating Senator Tolentino na umaagapay sa ating kapayapaan,” he said. END