MANILA – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. described 2023 as a “banner year” for the comprehensive Philippine peace process, which is a testament of the Marcos administration’s unwavering commitment to realizing its peace agenda for the nation. 

“Major milestones have been achieved in the comprehensive Philippine peace process under the Marcos administration’s Five-Point Peace, Reconciliation and Unity agenda,” Galvez highlighted in his year-end meeting with OPAPRU executives and personnel. 

Bangsamoro Peace Process 

He cited the significant progress that has been made under the Bangsamoro peace process, as the Bangsamoro Parliament has passed five of its seven priority codes, which aims to improve the socioeconomic conditions of its people and boost the region’s economy.

These codes include the Administrative Code, Civil Service Code, Electoral Code, Local Government Code, and Education Code. 

“The crafting of these codes is an indication that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has really gotten stronger, especially in terms of passing key legislation that will unlock the full economic potential of the region and bring economic progress to the people,” Galvez said. 

Moreover, Galvez noted all seven mechanisms of the National Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) have been established and are now functioning.

These IGRB mechanisms include the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum (PCBPF); Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB); Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation (JBZJC); Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board (IFPB); Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB); and Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board (BSDB); and the Council of Leaders.

“With the accomplishments of the IGRB this year, we have no doubt that the body will be able to sustain its momentum in 2024, as it effectively addresses pressing issues brought to its attention, and help uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people,” he said. 

The peace adviser pointed out that the major improvements in the BARMM’s poverty, human development, and growth are solid indications that the region’s economy is gaining momentum and is on an upward trajectory. 

“The BARMM is a very good example that once you create a peaceful and secure environment for the people, economic development will follow as trading, investments, and tourism will thrive,” he said.

A different battle

According to Galvez, a total of 26,145 former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants have also been decommissioned and “are now living as peaceful and productive civilians in their communities.”

A key component of the Normalization Program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), decommissioning is the process wherein the former combatants lay down their arms and return to mainstream society.   

“These former MILF combatants are now fighting a different battle and that is, a battle to improve their socioeconomic well-being and create a better future for themselves and their families,” Galvez said.

Moreover, he said the Transformation Program for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants, which was launched in October this year, is anticipated to uplift the lives of the group’s members and empower them as agents of peace and development.

“Our MNLF brothers and sisters are demonstrating their determination to help move forward the national government’s peace agenda and walk the path of peace,” Galvez said.

“More importantly, the national government is showing the MNLF that it is focused, more than ever, to fulfill all the commitments it had made under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement,” he added.

Ending Armed Conflict 

Galvez said that a “significant peace milestone” was likewise achieved by the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). 

He bared that the series of back-channeling and exploratory talks between the government and the NDFP resulted in the signing of the Oslo Joint Communique last November 23, in Oslo Norway. 

“The intention of the parties is very clear. This is to end the armed conflict, to end armed struggle, and the transformation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP,” Galvez said, who announced the peace breakthrough in Malacañang on November 28.

“We want to resolve all the socioeconomic drivers of conflict, and at the same time, end armed struggle through peaceful resolution of conflict. We’ve been divided as a people by this conflict for more than 50 years,” he added. 

Galvez said that another line of effort of the national government that is making headway to address the decades-long communist insurgency in the country is the Localized Peace Engagement (LPE) initiative.

The LPE cluster of the National Task Force to Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which is being co-chaired  by OPAPRU and the DILG, continues to roll out the Transformation Program for former rebels, their families and communities.

“We have been conducting Transformation Program workshops together with provincial local government units and partner agencies nationwide to help former rebels fully reintegrate into mainstream society and rebuild their lives,” Galvez said. 

 He emphasized the need for the nation to “come together under the government’s banner of unity” in light of the development challenges as well as the external threats the country is currently facing.

 “We, as Filipinos, really need to show the world that we are united as a nation. This is our best way to usher sustainable development and at the same time, protect our country’s sovereignty as a nation which is now under threat,” Galvez said. 

 “And we must remember that the peace process is not about winning or losing. As what President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has underscored, time and again, what is important is that we become united as a people,” he added. 

KAPATIRAN, Cordillera Peace Process 

The peace adviser said the government’s peace processes with the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), now called KAPATIRAN, are likewise moving forward. 

“The government continues to implement a Normalization Program for both groups that enable its members and their families to improve their socioeconomic well-being,” Galvez said. 

With the success being enjoyed by CBA-CPLA and KAPATIRAN members, he is confident that they will serve as shining examples for others to give up armed struggle, and embrace a peaceful and productive life.

“Once people start enjoying the dividends of peace and their lives start to improve, there is no longer reason for them to engage in armed struggle. They themselves will volunteer to become instruments of peace and development as what our CBA-CPLA and KAPATIRAN have shown.

Social Healing, Peace Investments

The OPAPRU, through its Social Healing and Peacebuilding Program (SHAPE), is also helping to mend the torn social fabric of society caused by armed conflict through peace conversations and other peacebuilding initiatives.

“We are committed to conduct trauma healing sessions for the victims especially in light of the recent bomb attack in Marawi City. Through this intervention, we hope to help the victims recover emotionally from the harrowing incident and move forward,” Galvez said.

By working closely with its international and local partners, he said the OPAPRU aims to directly address the roots of violence that is being used by terrorists and extremists to bring in recruits into their fold.

 “We believe that the best way to effectively and permanently address the threat of violent extremism is to involve everyone in the healing and peacebuilding process, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society,” Galvez said.

 “By holding peace conversations, particularly those who are victims of armed conflict, we are giving them a venue to share their view and experiences, and more importantly offer solutions to the concerns they are facing,” he added.

The OPAPRU together with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), as well as civil society organizations and the international development community, launched the fourth generation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAPWPS) 2023-2033 in early December. 

The NAP WPS is the Philippine government’s commitment to the United Nations Security Country Resolution (UNSCR) No 1325, which calls for women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-conflict reconstruction.

The OPAPRU, under its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA Program, is also building much-needed infrastructure projects that are helping to bring social cohesion, and create more livelihood opportunities for residents in focus areas nationwide. 

 The bulk of OPAPRU’s nearly Php 7 billion budget for 2024 will be used to fund the PAMANA Program, which seeks to bring essential government services closer to the people, especially in remote, undeveloped communities in focus areas,” Galvez said. 

 “Through PAMANA, we want to build high-impact infrastructure projects that will connect remote, far-flung communities to market centers, and consequently, boost trading and commercial activities,” he explained.  

Amnesty for FRs

Galvez is optimistic that with the upcoming roll-out of the national government’s amnesty program for former rebels, “more will be encouraged to turn away from armed struggle, lay down their arms, and return to the folds of the law.” 

According to him, the granting of amnesty is an integral part of the comprehensive peace process that will foster genuine healing, reconciliation and deepen the trust and confidence in the government which is needed for the economy to grow while building on the gains of peace. 

 “It is a path towards normalization that would allow former rebels not only to fully reintegrate themselves into mainstream society as peaceful, productive and law-abiding citizens, but more importantly, enable them to rebuild their lives and ensure a better future for themselves and their families,” Galvez said.

Amidst the backdrop of two major wars raging in different parts of the world, he noted that the Philippines is looked upon by the international community as a beacon of hope and inspiration for its successful peacebuilding efforts. 

“Our country has shown that good things come to those who choose and walk the path of peace. Let us continue doing so and become a beacon of hope, mutual understanding and solidarity,” Galvez said. 

“We would like to assure you that the Marcos administration is determined to push forward, build upon and sustain the gains of the comprehensive peace process,” he added. ###