PROVINCIAL CAPITOL, SURIGAO DEL NORTE – The Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) led the launching here on Tuesday, May 21, of the of the ‘Dangpanan’ or Peace Center.

The creation of the Peace Center, which is the first to be set up in Surigao del Norte, is an offshoot of the partnership between the Surigao PLGU and the OPAPRU in the implementation of the peace agency’s Transformation Program.
The establishment of the facility is in line with the Marcos Administration’s efforts to reinforce national reunification and reconciliation efforts, enhance resiliency, and support social, political, and economic reengineering at the provincial level.

In his remarks, during the center’s launching ceremony, Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Lyndon Barbers explained that the facility will serve as a safe haven for former rebels (FRs), now called ‘friends rescued,’ who have laid down their arms and returned to the folds of the law.

“For the first year, since we are processing ‘friends rescued’ who have come down from the mountains. They will be housed here. After a year, we will start to expand to other forms of help for residents,” Barbers said in a mix of the vernacular and English.

According to the governor, the Peace Center will eventually become a “one-stop shop for referrals,” particularly for peace-related concerns of residents “so that they will no longer be confused where to get help.”

Barbers expressed his gratitude to the OPAPRU for supporting the creation of the Peace Center, as well as the other peacebuilding efforts of the provincial government, saying “Thank you very much for all your help. We expect your continued support.”

Dangpanan, which means sanctuary in the Surigaonon dialect, shall serve as a hub for peace-related activities, initiatives, and coordination efforts of the provincial government. The facility shall be managed by the Surigao del Norte Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.

The Peace Center shall also function as a peace knowledge and learning center, providing resources, training, and support for peacebuilding efforts in the province. It shall likewise serve as a convention center, peace-related meetings, seminars, and conferences.

Moreover, the facility shall also conduct community consultations called “Panag-ambit” to understand, recommend solutions, and intensify the implementation of peacebuilding processes and efforts of local government units.

The Provincial Planning and Development Office, Provincial Legal Office, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) – Surigao del Norte Provincial Office shall act as the Secretariat of the Peace Center.

The facility’s operations shall be supported by all the members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council and the Provincial Development Council. It shall have cluster coordinators for clustered barangays that shall serve as peace coordinators in their clustered areas.

In his message read by OPAPRU Presidential Assistant, Atty. Wilben Mayor, Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. cited the key role that the province of Surigao del Norte has played in pushing forward the national government’s peace policy agenda.

“Surigao del Norte was identified as one of our agency’s priority areas in the implementation of the Transformation Program for former rebels. And by all indications, the province has certainly come a long way since the program was rolled out in 2022,” Galvez said.

He lauded the provincial government’s efforts to sustain and build on the gains of peace, as he noted that their peacebuilding efforts “have certainly borne fruit, as Surigao del Norte was declared as ‘insurgency free’ last march 2024.

“The remarkable progress your province has achieved in the peace and security front stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, resilience, and the unwavering commitment of the Surigao people to peace,” Galvez said.

The peace adviser stressed that through the Peace Center, the Surigao Provincial Government and OPAPRU shall bring together stakeholders from different sectors to collaborate on creating sustainable solutions for peace. and thereby, building mutual trust and understanding.

“Together, we can amplify the impact of these initiatives to ensure that peace is not just an absence of conflict, but a tangible reality that brings about positive change in the lives of our people,” Galvez said. ##