MANDALUYONG CITY (27 November 2020) — The private sector once again demonstrated its unwavering support to the government’s efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, as it purchased 2.6 million doses of vaccines to inoculate more than a million Filipinos in 2021.
PASIG CITY (26 NOVEMBER 2020)— The proposed extension of the Bangsamoro transition period for three more years is necessary to complete the implementation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.
“If we want this transition to be successful, we have to give our brothers (in the Bangsamoro) ample time to lay down the foundation, and realistically we cannot achieve this in three years,” Galvez told lawmakers during a House Special Committee hearing on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Thursday.
The call for the extension of another three years stemmed when the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government running the autonomous region, passed a resolution earlier calling for their extension until 2025 to fully complete the transition process.
Under Republic Act no. 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) shall undergo a three-year transition period, which began in 2019 and end on 2022.
However, as the country grapple with the COVID-19, the passage of the key codes of the newly-established BARMM has been delayed. The creation of the BARMM is an offshoot following the passage of the BOL to operationalize the CAB signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014. In parallel, the Normalization Track, a key component of the peace agreement, also suffered some delays in the implementation where it is expected to decommission thousands of MILF combatants.
Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19, cited many challenges the government continues to face in the implementation of the CAB due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The movement of peace workers as well as international peace partners have been restricted. Moreover, funds have been reduced since some of the resources were utilized for emergency purposes,” Galvez said.
“Our total package amounting to PhP 1.4 billion was not released for our 14,000 combatants scheduled to be decommissioned this year, due to our difficulty with the implementation of this program,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier backed the proposed extension of the BARMM’s transition period during a meeting with top officials of the BARMM in Davao early this week.
“President Durterte also believes that three years is too short and he agrees for the possible extension. So ladies and gentlemen, that is the position of the OPAPP,” Galvez, who attended the meeting with the President, added.
According to the peace adviser, the BTA was just established last year and did not have full access yet to funds allocated by the national government to the BARMM.
Moreover, the BTA still needs to craft its various codes such as the Election Code before Parliamentary elections can be held in the region.
There are seven codes that are needed to be passed to complete the governance structure of the BARMM. These are: Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, Bangsamoro Civil Service Code, and Bangsamoro law for indigenous peoples.
So far, the BTA was only able to enact the Administrative Code and the Bangsamoro Development Plan.
Gains must be sustained
In his report to Congress, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary David B. Diciano, chair of the Government Peace Implementing Panel, said that 12,145, or 30.37% out of the 40,000 MILF combatants have already been decommissioned.
Under the original plan, 30% or 14,000 combatants are set to be decommissioned under Phase 3 by 2020. The remaining 35% are expected to be decommissioned under Phase 4, which is expected to be completed by 2022, or before the signing of the Exit Agreement.
However, Diciano said the timeline for the implementation of activities under the Normalization Program has been drastically disrupted by the pandemic, which limited the movement of people.
“As we have been close partners in the road towards the passage of the BOL – a historic piece of legislation recognizing the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro, we earnestly hope that with Congress, we may tread the same path towards the completion of the CAB aimed at instituting just and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro,” Diciano said.
Maguindanao Second District Representative Esmael Mangudadatu, chair of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, took note of the aforementioned challenges in the CAB’s implementation, and acknowledged the gains achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process so far.
“While every stakeholder in the BARMM is eager to do his task, uncontrollable factors brought about by the (health) crisis have prevented the regional government from realizing its immediate goals, such as the full transition of the BTA, and passage of each legislative agenda,” Mangudadatu said.
“The BARMM is also beset with funding releases which prevent the full implementation of the BOL. Nevertheless, we are still grateful that the implementation of CAB is moving forward,” he added.
Galvez called on lawmakers to consider the proposed extension in order to sustain the gains of the GPH-MILF peace process.
“I would like to make an appeal to the senses of those who are opposing this extension. With the current situation that we have right now, the country will have the vaccine most likely on May, June or July of 2021, it is expected that the Normalization process will be delayed or worse stalled,” he said.
“Even If you put the best people in the BARMM, no one can achieve a meaningful transition in a speed of the few remaining months. Normalization process requires more time and resources to fulfill the both parties’ promises and obligations to the Bangsamoro People. With the social dislocation and uncertainties brought by the pandemic, an extension is morally justified,” Galvez said. ###
MUNICIPALITY OF TUPI, SOUTH COTABATO (21 November 2020) — Nestled at the foot of Mount Matutum is a small municipality of less than 70,000 people. Despite being a first-class town in South Cotabato, there are still communities here, especially those in outlying areas, that do not have access to much-needed government services.
Sitio Glandang in Barangay Kablon is among them. It rests in an elevated area and is the main passageway to Mount Matutum. While it is surrounded by springs, the residents, mostly children, bear the brunt of walking several kilometers just to fetch water for use in their homes.
For years, the residents have been drinking untested, untreated water directly gathered from its source. This situation has caused the spread of water-borne diseases in the area, and has also made residents vulnerable to non-state armed groups.
“Hindi lang po siya problema sa tubig,” says Osting Tilo, Jr., barangay chairperson of Kablon. “Kapag hindi po naibibigay ang pangangailangan ng mamamayan, mas nagiging prone po sila sa pagsabi sa mga armadong grupo.”
This is why Tilo is thankful for the potable water system built under the government’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program.
The PAMANA Program, which is under the oversight of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), aims to provide peace-promoting infrastructure and livelihood projects to residents in remote, conflict-affected areas across the country.
“Inaasahan namin na ang water system na ito ay magdudulot ng malaking ginhawa sa buhay ng mga tao dito sa komunidad. Hindi na ninyo kinakailangang lumakad ng malayo upang mag-igib ng tubig para sa inyong mga tahanan. Magagamit na ninyo ang oras na ito sa ibang mahahalagang gawaing-bahay at paghahanapbuhay,” said Dir. Cesar De Mesa, head of the PAMANA – National Program Management Department.
“Napakalaking ginhawa po ang nararamdaman ng ating mga mamamayan sa proyektong ito, sapagkat hindi na nila kailangang mag-igib sa malayong lugar para lamang magkaroon ng tubig sa kanilang mga tahanan,” said Tilo.
Sitio Glandang in Barangay Kablon is among the three recipients of a potable water systems worth PhP 7 million built under PAMANA. The other water systems are located in Sitio Acfaon in Barangay Bunao, and Sitio Lamflawan in Barangay Lunen. These areas are considered Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), which makes them highly vulnerable to the threat of insurgency.
Improving lives through livestock production
To improve livestock production, one of the main sources of income in Tupi, PAMANA provided a Php20-million livestock cattle fattening program to 625 farmers in 15 barangays. The initiative aims to enhance the productivity of farmers, and raise their incomes.
“Layunin ng proyektong na maging mas produktibo ang ating mga mamamayan at mabigyan sila ng karagdagang oportunidad upang kumita,” said De Mesa.
“We are very thankful to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for giving us these projects in order to better the lives of our citizens. We may be a melting pot of tribes and cultures, but we share one vision for all: that is to improve our lives, no matter what ethnicity we belong to,” said Tupi Municipal Mayor Romeo Tamayo.
To ensure the sustainability of the enterprise, the local government also provided technical assistance to the recipients, such as trainings on cattle raising. The Barangay Affairs Office also conductsqq regular project monitoring to help address concerns which may arise.
‘Dagyaw’ key to project sustainability
“We already thought of ways to sustain these projects that PAMANA has given. In fact, our barangay leaders are very proactive and crafted solutions to fund the maintenance and operating expenses of the water systems,” Tamayo said.
“We involve barangay leaders and the beneficiaries in the process. We believe in the value of “dagyaw” — or bayanihan — to fulfill all these,” he added.
In order to sustain operations of the water system, Barangay Kablon organized its people and formed an association which has provided them a venue to discuss ways to better manage the project.
“Dito po sa barangay Kablon, gumawa po kami ng asosasyon ng mga residente na naka-konekta sa ating PAMANA potable water system. Ang leadership po ng asosasyon ang siyang gumagawa ng paraan upang ma-maintain ang operasyon ng proyekto. May maliit po tayong sinisingil sa mga residente sa kanilang water consumption, at ito naman ang ginagamit natin para tuloy-tuloy ang daloy ng tubig sa mga tahanan,” Tilo said.
“Nakakatuwa po sapagkat ang mga residente po ay sumusuporta naman sa ating mga inisyatibo. Nakikita rin po kasi nila ang mabuting epekto nito sa kanilang tahanan, at hindi na sila nahihirapan upang makakuha ng tubig,” he added.
According to Tamayo, the beneficiaries of the livestock program agreed to implement the sustainable methods they have learned from the LGU to ensure its continued expansion.
“When we spoke to the beneficiaries, we told them that there has to be processes and rules upang ating mapanatiling maayos ang proyekto. Once the cattle gives birth, the calves will be given to other residents so that they, too, will have an additional source of income. Kung mapilayan ang baka at nag-decide ang beneficiary na ibenta ito, dapat ipambili ng kapalit na baka ang pinagbilhan nito,” Tamayo said.
The beneficiaries immediately agreed to this arrangement, Tamayo said.
“You will see in their faces how happy they are that they will have an additional source of livelihood, that their lives will be better. And they want to pass it on. It’s like a cycle of goodness. OPAPP under its PAMANA Program started the good deed, and the beneficiaries continue to pass the goodness to others, no matter what tribe they come from,” he said.
Meanwhile, De Mesa lauded the municipal government for their best practices, noting that these should be emulated by other areas where PAMANA projects are located.
“This is really a best practice, because you don’t let the project cease. You made it a shared responsibility with the municipal government, the barangay leaders, and ultimately the beneficiaries,” he said.
“You planned for its sustainability, so that other generations may benefit from it, too. I hope other local governments will have this kind of plan so that our projects become more sustainable,” De Mesa added.
As for Mayor Tamayo and Chairman Tilo, they have no doubt that the PAMANA projects will continue to have an impact in their communities — as long as the spirit of “dagyaw” remains in the hearts of their people. ###
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