PASAY CITY — The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) celebrated its 30th founding anniversary on Tuesday, September 19 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), this city.

The occasion marked three decades of peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and peacemaking for the agency.

Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. led the celebration and awarding ceremony, together with OPAPRU officials and personnel.

“Over the past three decades, the agency has led the government’s efforts to bring harmony, mutual understanding, and solidarity among Filipinos. It has navigated the turbulent waters of conflict and division, working tirelessly with peace stakeholders to bridge gaps and heal wounds amidst socio-political, religious and cultural differences,” Galvez said in his message to the employees,” Galvez said in his keynote address.

“To our OPAPRU Service and Loyalty awardees, I have only one request, and that is, to keep the fire in your bellies burning as brightly as ever. You have become an integral member of our organization because you have chosen to champion the cause of peace, reconciliation and unity. It is truly an honor and a pleasure to be working with all of you,” he added.

Presidential Assistant Arnulfo R. Pajarillo of the agency’s Office for Finance and Administrative Services, Plans and Programs also lauded OPAPRU staff, saying, “In our organization, loyalty and hard work never go unnoticed. And today, we proudly shine the spotlight on 37 dedicated employees — 15 loyalty awardees and 22 service awardees.”

“It is not only these awardees we are recognizing on this occasion, but all of you who are present here at the PICC and those joining us from the field,” Pajarillo added. “Being at the forefront of building a culture of peace, mutual understanding and solidarity in the country, you have not only effectively carried out your crucial mandate; you have gone over and beyond what is expected of you.”

Peace milestones

With Galvez at the helm of the OPAPRU, it helped reunite the Misuari and Sema groups of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) after decades of separation, which is considered a landmark development under the Bangsamoro peace process.

The agency also played a key role in establishing an inclusive Bangsamoro Transition Authority. Together with its peace partners, it also assisted in the rebuilding of Marawi and implemented social healing interventions for the victims of the siege.

Currently, the OPAPRU is implementing the political and normalization tracks of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which is a testament to the strong partnership between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Under the Normalization Program, around 65% of the 40,000 MILF combatants have already been decommissioned.

The agency is also implementing Transformation Programs for the MNLF, RPMP-RPA-ABB-TPG also known as KAPATIRAN, the CBA-CPLA and former rebels.

The dividends of peace are now being felt nationwide, as communities situated in once conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable communities are becoming show windows of peace and development.

During the opening of the National Peace Consciousness Month this September, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. declared the province of Palawan as insurgency free.

Historic peace agreements

Over the past three decades, OPAPRU has led the government’s efforts in forging landmark peace agreements with revolutionary organizations in the country.

These include the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the CAB signed between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The agency also played a crucial role in the passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which gave birth to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

It is also leading the implementation of the 1986 SIPAT Agreement with the Cordillera Bodong Administration/Cordillera People’s Liberation Army.

Empowering communities

The agency continues to roll out projects under its PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program which aims, among others, to improve the access of residents to much-needed socio-economic interventions, and empower communities and strengthen their capacities to address issues of conflict and peace.

The PAMANA Program has completed a total of 21,914 projects which cover agricultural productivity support, agri-fishery, capacity building, natural resource management, community infrastructure, electrification, water system, flood control, and health centers.

The program, which is anchored on conflict-sensitive and peacebuilding (CSPP) approaches, has 2,585 ongoing projects nationwide.

With all of these peace gains, the OPAPRU has been instrumental in pushing forward the Philippine peace process over the past 30 years.

Today, OPAPRU’s 600-strong peace workers throughout the country stand as solid proof of the national government’s commitment to achieving a just and lasting peace across the country. ###