BAGUIO CITY– Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong led the groundbreaking ceremony and the signing of the memorandum of agreement for the construction of the first ever Peace Center in Northern Luzon on Friday, February 16.

The Php 50 million peace and development center, which will be built at the Upper Session Road, this city, will house Cordillera-based Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) personnel.

The facility will also serve as a peace knowledge and learning center in the city, as well as a convention center where meetings and seminars can be held.

From casual talks to realization

According to Mayor Magalong, the idea of establishing a peace center in the city started during a casual talk with Secretary Galvez at an event in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in September last year.

“Sec. Galvez and I have been together for a while, especially during the run of the National Task Force on COVID-19 where he was the vaccine czar while I was the lead in the nationwide contact tracing,” Magalong said.

“Sometime in September 2023 just last year, we were both guests at a PMA event. He was mentioning to me the different programs of OPAPRU and the fundings for the programs. He also mentioned the peacekeeping and reconciliation programs to which we both agreed to suggest that we can put up a peace and development center here in Baguio City.” he recalled.

PAMANA funded project

The proposed peace and development center was then included in the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program fund for fiscal year 2024. The successful inclusion of the project came after a site validation and assessment was made by OPAPRU personnel.

The PAMANA Program is the national government’s peace and development convergence program which forms an integral part of the Philippine comprehensive peace process.

This cross-cutting, community-driven intervention directly contributes to the implementation of the Transformation and Normalization Programs under the various peace agreements, while ensuring the sustainability of project interventions in peace and development focus areas.

To facilitate the implementation of fiscal year 2024 PAMANA projects and in recognition of the significant role of local government units in peacebuilding, the OPAPRU partnered with the city local government of Baguio for the implementation of the PAMANA project in its area jurisdiction.

“We are looking forward to a very strong partnership and collaboration with regards to this joint venture and that is, the construction of a peace and development center, the first of its kind in Northern Luzon. I also heard that there would be more peace and development centers that will be put up in other parts of this country,” Magalong said.

Recognition of Cordillera’s key role in peacebuilding

For his part, Secretary Galvez said the the peace center shall serve as a concrete symbol of OPAPRU’s recognition of the Cordillera Administrative Region’s “key role in peacebuilding that is deeply rooted in its rich culture and traditions such as the Bodong system, Pechen, Tung-Tong and Mediation.”

“This facility will not only house OPAPRU personnel, but more importantly, enable our office to make its presence more felt here in the region. Through the center, we will ensure that all local peace and development efforts will be well-monitored, well-coordinated and well-supported by OPAPRU through its close collaboration with other stakeholders in the region,” Galvez said.

He added that the physical presence of OPAPRU in the city will also help increase the people’s awareness of the agency, which is dedicated to promoting peace, conflict resolution, reconciliation, and the prevention of violence in the region.

The center, which has a 3,775 sqm floor area, will also serve as an avenue for the conduct of peace dialogues, capacity and skills training, women and youth peace and security seminars, and the practice of conflict resolution approaches that originated in the Cordillera.

Galvez was joined by LGen. Fernyl Buca, PAF, Commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon; MGen. Audrey L. Pasia, Commander of 5th Infantry Division; PAMANA Director J Anthony Peña and Dir. Christina Loren Umali of the RPA-ABB and CBA-CPLA Concerns Office. While Mayor Magalong was joined by Baguio City Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and other councilors of the city during the ceremonial groundbreaking and MOA signing. ###