BUTUAN CITY—The provincial government of Agusan del Norte and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) Eastern Mindanao inaugurated here on Wednesday, September 20, the “Kagawasan 143”, the country’s first “Peace Center.”

The Peace Center located in Camp Bancasi aims to build bridges of peace, mutual understanding and solidarity among members of the community and provide support for former rebels who have chosen the path of peace and reconciliation, while also providing them with the necessary resources and opportunities to successfully reintegrate into mainstream society.

Leading the inauguration of the facility were Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante; Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña, OPAPRU Director for Eastern Mindanao; PBGen Kirby Kraft, Regional Director, PNP Caraga; Maria Loisella E. Lucino, Regional Director, DILG XIII and Head, RTF-ELCAC Secretariat; BGen. Ariel Adonis Orio, Commander, 402nd Brigade; and other military officials.

In her message, Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante explained that the “Kagawasan 143” would take the lead in coordinating the broader implementation of provincial peace-building initiatives, programs, and other measures.

“This coordination will be directed toward streamlining the delivery of fundamental services and social interventions for FRs, their families, and the wider communities,” Amante said.

The governor added that the peace center’s primary purpose is “to provide comprehensive support to former rebels, their families, and the communities they belong to. This endeavor aligns with and bolsters the ongoing peace initiatives within the province, including the ECLIP.”

Kagawasan 143, PH’s first Peace Center

Wednesday’s launching of the Agusan del Norte’s “Kagawasan 143” Peace Center is part of OPAPRU’s celebration of the 2023 National Peace Consciousness Month.

The concept of “Kagawasan 143” Peace Center was patterned after Davao City’s Peace 911, which serves as a “nerve-center” for various projects, programs, and services intended uplift the lives of former rebels.

For her part, Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña, OPAPRU Director for Eastern Mindanao, said the “Kagawasan 143″ would serve as a “hub” for community engagement, where Friends Rescued (FRs) can come together to discuss and address local issues, share ideas, and build a stronger, more cohesive community.

She added that OPAPRU would closely collaborate with the “Kagawasan 143” Peace Center that would actively support and engage in peacebuilding initiatives within the city, and across the province of Agusan del Norte.

Moreover, the Peace Center will work closely with grassroots organizations, local organizations, the academe, and other government agencies to carry out conflict resolution and other peacebuilding interventions.

The establishment of the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center is among OPAPRU’s ongoing efforts to foster unity, harmony, and stability in the Caraga region.

This endeavor, Lapiña said, supports the agency’s Localized Peace Engagement (LPE) initiatives and its Transformation Program for Friends Rescued (FRs), which is being carried out in partnership with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) LPE Cluster.

Aside from the creation of the Peace Center, the OPAPRU also vowed to transfer P5-million to initially fund the operations of the facility that would strengthen the implementation of OPAPRU’s LPE and Transformation Program initiatives in the province.

Transformation Program for ex-rebels

It was during implementation of the LPE and Transformation Program when the idea of establishing a Peace Center emerged. The main purpose of this Peace Center is to orchestrate the comprehensive and unified implementation of the Transformation Program’s various components.

“This orchestration aims to foster the enduring well-being of Friends Rescued (FRs) and bolster community resilience, thereby contributing to the resolution of local communist armed conflicts,” according to Lapiña.

She further explained that the peace center will supervise, evaluate, implement, and monitor of the Transformation Program. This cross-cutting program is built on four major pillars: Security, Confidence-Building Measures, Healing and Reconciliation, and Socio-Economic development.

“The Kagawasan 143 Peace Center stands as a testament to our collective commitment to building bridges of understanding and support for those who have chosen the path of peace and reconciliation, while also providing them with the necessary resources and opportunities to reintegrate into society successfully,” Lapiña said.

Meanwhile, OPAPRU handed over 500 rice of sacks to Friends Rescued (FRs) who are residing at the Agusan del Norte’s Halfway House Livelihood Training Center in Brgy. Bancasi in Butuan City.

Other officials who attended the turn-over ceremony were BGen. George L Banzon Jr., Brigade Commander, 901st Brigade,; LTC Cresencio C. Gargar, Commander, 29th Infantry Battalion; LTC Jeffrey P. Balingao , INF, Commander, 23rd Infantry Battalion; and PCol. Filemon Pacios, Provincial Director of PNP Agusan del Norte. ###