Cordi autonomy bill gains backing from public and private sectors

BAGUIO CITY, 20 April 2018 – The Cordillerans rallied their support for the creation of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) during the first public hearing initiated here yesterday by the House of Representatives.

“We strongly manifest our support on House Bill 5343 believing and recognizing that it is the most effective option to provide the region with sustainable development and to promote our cultural diversity,” Barangay Chairman Ferdinand Bucad said on behalf of the Liga ng mga Barangay Baguio City Chapter.

House Bill (HB) No. 5343 or “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera” seeks genuine autonomy in the region in response to their clamor for self-determination.

Regional offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health, and the Department of Interior and Local Government also voiced their “full and unconditional support” for the bill, describing it as the “realization of their long-cherished dream and aspiration to manage their own resources and to promote our cultural practices.”

Business and civil society organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Filipino Investors Society, and Igorota Foundation also expressed support for the bill.

In their opening remarks, Cordilleran Representatives Marquez Go, Allen Jesse Mangaoang,and Ronald Cosalan jointly committed their best efforts in prioritizing the approval of the bill by the Committee on Local Government before the end of the 17th Congress.

For his part, Baguio City Mayor and Regional Development Council Chair Mauricio Domogan said it is both “an individual and collective obligation to make the people understand our need for regional autonomy.”

“Let us all continue to unite and work with our lawmakers for the realization of our clamor,” he said.

The draft bill, now with 19 articles, aims to guarantee the region’s financial capability without the diminution of their existing benefits and powers.

Among its salient points are: the continued existence of line agencies in support of their regional offices; payment of business taxes in the Cordillera region instead of the National Capital Region (NCR); an 80%-20% share of agency fees between ARC and NCR; and the continuous collection of their internal revenue allotment.

By | April 20th, 2018|CBA-CPLA, News|0 Comments

Carmen leads the way in Balik Baril Program implementation

Carmen, North Cotabato, April 19, 2018 — The municipal government of Carmen handed over more than 100 high-powered loose firearms to the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, leading the rest of the province in supporting the national government’s Balik Baril Program (BPP).

Among those who witnessed the handover ceremony were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, and 6th ID Commander Major General Arnel dela Vega.

In his remarks during the event, Dureza lauded the municipality of Carmen for taking the lead in addressing the problem of loose firearms in the province.

“These (guns) are a symbol of your cooperation,” he said, pointing out that the handover was the result of the municipal government’s strong desire to establish a culture of peace in the community.

“We are doing this because we don’t want our youth to experience what we have gone through,” he said.

The BBP is in line with the Duterte administration’s determined efforts to address the problem of lawlessness, violence, and armed conflict across the country.

Dureza recalled that Carmen was once considered a military hotspot, being the site of numerous armed battles between government troops and rebel forces.

But he said the situation has turned around through the leadership of local officials in the province led by Governor Taliño-Mendoza and Carmen Mayor Rogelio Taliño.

Dureza said that through the peacebuilding efforts of the governor and mayor, the inter-religious and inter-cultural relations between Muslims, Christians, and Lumads have improved significantly.

“We need to learn to accept our differences. There is no longer a need for us to make a distinction between Muslim, Christian and Lumad,” he said.

Mayor Taliño said the transformation of Carmen has been dramatic. “Gone are the days that Carmen was looked upon as a war zone,” he said.

The mayor said his municipality is now at a stage where it is creating “more spaces for peace.”

For her part, Governor Taliño-Mendoza lauded Carmen for being the first municipality in the province to successfully implement the BBP.

“This is a manifestation of your commitment to peace,” she said. ###

By | April 19th, 2018|CPP-NPA-NDF, News|0 Comments

Dureza: Peacebuilding should be done ‘peace by piece’

DAVAO CITY, April 16, 2018 “We must work peace by piece.”

This was how Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza described government’s peacebuilding strategy, which has been the key in effectively dealing with the various rebel groups across the country.

“We can’t do this overnight. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past. We must learn to do things better,” Dureza said in his message during the Annual Plenary Session of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines held here on Monday.

He said inclusivity has been the guiding principle of the Duterte administration as it seeks to find a long-lasting solution to the armed conflict that has plagued the nation for decades.

Dureza said this has also been the mindset that has enabled the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to move forward in Congress.

“It is President Duterte’s commitment to pass the BBL,” the government’s top peace negotiator said, explaining that in order to make this promise a reality, President Rodrigo Duterte knew that the voices of other stakeholders had to be heard.

This inclusivity led to the expansion of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTC) original membership from 15 to 21, three of them members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Dureza said although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will have a “first stake” in the establishment of the proposed Bangsamoro state and government, the MNLF will also be an integral part of “the bigger leadership.”

Meanwhile, Dureza said the Duterte administration has adopted a more realistic approach in dealing with the communist rebels.

He admitted that there is a “wide gap” that must be bridged between the two parties, with the government working “within the parameters of the Constitution.”

He said this is why there must be a “convergence point” in which both groups “can meet halfway.”

Dureza had announced on April 4 that the President had directed him and the government panel to work on the resumption of peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), with specific instructions to forge a ceasefire agreement

Dureza stressed that proposals for capitulation or surrender should not be brought up during the negotiations, saying there are more “creative” ways of negotiating with the rebel organization.

“The key is to find an ‘alternative route,’” he said. “You can’t kill an idea. You have to address the root cause why they are rebelling,” he added.

Dureza cited the example of the GPH-MILF peace process in which the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) was established even while the peace negotiations between the government and the rebel group was ongoing.

“You have to make them feel that they are already benefitting,” he said. “There is also a need to take care of the bigger public who also feel they are being deprived,” he added.

Dureza also emphasized that the Duterte administration wants to carry out the negotiations at a “faster pace.”

“As President Duterte has said, this is already our last chance (to forge a peace agreement),” he said. ###

Trust fund to continue dev’t projects in 6 MILF camps

Taguig City — The Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) for Reconstruction and Development Program Phase II (MTF-RDPII) will begin implementation and continue the delivery of socio-economic interventions in the six previously acknowledged MILF Camps in the provinces of Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, following the signing of the Program Partnership Agreements in this city last April 10, 2018.

The MTF, co-chaired by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the World Bank (WB) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), is a multi-donor trust fund facility established in 2005 to consolidate international development assistance for the socio-economic recovery of fragile communities in Mindanao.

The six identified camps are Abubakar-as-Siddique, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal.

The MTF is administered by the WB with contributions from the European Union and the Governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States, and Spain. Roughly US$ 4.5 million has been allocated for the implementation of the second phase of the program with Community and Family Services International (CFSI) as the Trust Fund Recipient and the BDA as the Implementing Partner.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza, in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion, expressed gratitude to the MILF, WB, CFSI, BDA, the international development partners and other partners for peace for their “zealous dedication to ensure that the Normalization track will move forward.”

In 2014, the Government of the Philippines and the MILF agreed to undertake measures for the transformation of camps by signing the Annex on Normalization as provided by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Since then, MTF has been proactively carrying out camp programs like livelihood, socio-economic, and infrastructure interventions as well as implementation of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Around 70,000 individuals in 31 communities in these fragile areas have benefitted from these initiatives.

For her part, WB Philippines Country Director Mara Warwick guaranteed that the WB together with partners under the MTF are “committed to continue supporting efforts that enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao.”

“We look forward continuing to accompany the government, and especially OPAPP, as well as the MILF in the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao and the implementation of the peace agreements,” Warwick said in her remarks.

The signing ceremony was attended by OPAPP’s Donor Coordination and Partnership Unit (DCPU) Director Arvin Chua, Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga of the MILF, Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan of the BDA, Dr. Steven Muncy of CFSI, and the Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation Director General Juan Pita.

By | April 12th, 2018|MILF, MNLF|0 Comments

Dureza: Duterte determined to bring peace to the country

MANILA, April 12, 2018 —  President Rodrigo Duterte’s determination to end the decades-old insurgency in the country is the key factor in opening up the talks with the Reds, the presidential adviser on the peace process said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines this morning, Office the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza said the resumption of talks is in line with the President’s “personal advocacy (and) ambition” as well as his “mission and vision.”

“He (President Duterte) would like to bring sustainable and just peace in the land,” Secretary Dureza said. “He understands very well coming from a place like Davao, where he dealt with them (New People’s Army) directly, and he would like to address the root cause of the problem.”

During the Cabinet meeting last April 4, President Duterte ordered Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is the chief government negotiator with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), to work on the resumption of talks with directives to forge a ceasefire agreement.

Dureza also pointed out that the President is taking into consideration the public’s desire to conclude the conflict.

“I’m sure it’s not only him (President Duterte) that is very anxious to have that conclusion, pati ang taong bayan nag-eexpect,” he said.

According to Dureza, the President has given a two-month timeline to reopen the talks, which stalled in November 2017 due to escalated violence on the ground.

“We’ll work on it definitely and the way you listen to the other side, (CPP Founder) Joma Sison says he welcome all this. I think they will be with us to start it early,” he said. ###

Dureza: Approach peace process with optimism

DAVAO CITY, April 10, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza yesterday underscored the importance of optimism in working on the peace process after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the resumption of talks with the communist rebels.

“I have always been optimistic; you have no other recourse but be optimistic if you’re working for peace,” the Secretary said in an interview aired by ANC on Monday night.

The talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) broke down in 2017 after four rounds of successful negotiations.

On April 4, Dureza announced that the President had directed him and the government panel to “work on the resumption of peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF” with instructions to forge a ceasefire agreement.

Dureza attributed this to Duterte’s desire to bring about peace in the country as well as to the positive statements from top Communist leaders expressing willingness to continue negotiations.

“If somebody offers the hand of peace, of course, every right thinking Filipino will also accept it,” he said.

Dureza also explained his “peace by piece” approach in the peace process. “It is a brick-by-brick laying of the foundation for peace,” he said.

“Our work is to find a way to go around these roadblocks, look for alternative ways. Because eventually, we cannot do without having sustainable peace,” Dureza said. ###

Dureza promotes unity amidst Filipinos’ diversity

GUIMBAL, ILOILO, 06 April 2018 — Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza yesterday encouraged Guimbalanons to embrace the varying historical roots and cultures of the Filipinos as he gave the keynote message in this town’s annual Bantayan Festival.

“The Philippines is a diverse country. We have different beliefs from different sectors, but we must unite as one nation. Let us stop judging the other person based on our own standards,” he said.

One of the festival’s highlights, a reenactment of the Moro raids in the area during the Spanish colonial period, showed how the natives used the gimba — a hollowed trunk from a palm tree — as an instrument to warn the settlers of incoming Moro pirates.

“The Moros today are different from the Moros that we know of before. Instead of the fighting, the locals should also represent (in the performance) how we embrace the Moros as they are now,” Dureza said.

He also noted the shift in the relationship with the Moro people over the years. He cited how the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) greatly helped the government during the Marawi siege last year through the establishment of the Peace Corridor, which was instrumental in the rescue of 255 civilians.

The Peace Corridor was a safe and secure route jointly established by the government and the MILF for civilians who were fleeing the crisis. Two Peace Corridors were created: one in Marawi used for the retrieval of trapped locals, and one in Malabang used for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance.

“Let us forget the past, embrace our Moro brothers and sisters, and move forward for peace. We have to celebrate all Filipinos — Moros man sila, Christians, or IPs (indigenous peoples) alike,” Dureza said.

Dureza optimistic Reds will reciprocate offer of peace talks

ILOILO CITY, APRIL 5, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza today expressed confidence that communist rebels will agree to the resumption of peace talks after President Rodrigo Duterte offered “another last chance” to forge a peace settlement.

In an interview on Super Radyo DZBB, Dureza said he believes both the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have learned from the previous rounds of talks, which broke down after the failure to maintain an enabling environment for negotiations.

“There is really an intention of both sides to put an end to this problem, this tragedy of Filipinos killing fellow Filipinos. I’m confident that both sides will grab the last chance to work toward a final settlement,” he said.

The peace adviser emphasized that peace negotiations are essential in ending the decades-old communist insurgency.

Hindi kasi natin pwedeng tapusin itong problema ng insurgency sa bakbakan lamang (We cannot end the problem of insurgency just by fighting). We need to address the root causes,” he said.

Dureza also reiterated the importance of a ceasefire agreement for talks to move forward.

Kailangan wala munang insidente ng pag-atake para nakikita ng taumbayan ang (There should be no more incidents of attacks so that the people can see the) sincerity on both sides,” he said.

During the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the President instructed Dureza to work on the resumption of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), with the order to work out a ceasefire agreement.

The President is also “committed to provide support, if necessary, in replacement of the revolutionary tax that he asked to be stopped.”

The government and CPP-NPA-NDF have conducted four rounds of talks from 2016, resulting in the signing of several agreements.

These include the supplemental guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee for the observance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the reaffirmation of previously signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. ###




Qualified teachers to stay under BBL

Marawi City – Appointed officials and qualified teachers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “will continue to sit in their position and perform their duty” as the transition period takes place once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed and eventually ratified.

This was emphasized by Commisioner Jose Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) during the final leg of the Congressional hearing and public consultation on the BBL held in this city.

One of the concerns raised by the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division of Lanao del Sur during the consultation was the security of tenure of employees, especially the teachers.

Lorena assured the teachers that there is “no intention to remove them from their positions.”

“In fact you will be given more priority in the Bangsamoro because it will weed out the bureaucracy from those positions of personnel who are not qualified,” he said.

“Under the BBL, we would like to upgrade the quality of education in our region,” he added.

Meanwhile, those who will be separated from the service can avail themselves of separation packages as provided under the proposed measure drafted by the BTC.

“In compliance with the request of the ARMM employees association, we provided a provision that those who want to retire will be given the highest retirement package,” Lorena said.

Public consultations on the BBL were held to evaluate the pulse of the constituents, especially those who are included in the core area of the Bangsamoro.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are now eyeing to pass the proposed measure by the end of May 2018 upon the urging of President Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch supporter of the BBL. ###

GPH, MILF commit to sustain gains of the 4-year old CAB 

MANILA, March 27, 2018 – The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) affirmed their commitment to pursue the milestones gained since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) during the celebration of the peace agreement’s 4th anniversary held today in Pasig City.

In his remarks, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Undersecretary Nabil Tan commended both parties for continuing the legacy of CAB through strengthened partnership for four years.

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law is not just a part of the implementation of the CAB but is meant to address the commitment of the government with the MILF and the Bangsamoro people. The milestones of the peace process are a reminder of how far we’ve come after the signing of CAB in 2014.” he said.

The CAB is the political settlement between the government and the MILF that signaled the end of 17 years of intensive negotiation and started the normalization phase towards achieving peace in this war-torn part of the country.

Since its conception, CAB has been instrumental in maintaining a peaceful relationship with the Moro rebels, with socio-economic programs and security mechanisms put in place to ensure former combatants can get back to their normal civilian lives.

In a landmark event in the Bangsamoro Peace Process, 75 high-powered and crew-served weapons from 145 MILF combatants were ceremoniously turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) on June 16, 2015.

Another landmark in the cooperation between both parties was the creation of the Peace Corridor during the Marawi siege, paving the way for the retrieval of 255 civilians trapped in the war zone and allowing access of humanitarian aid to the displaced civilians.

In his message during the celebration, MILF Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal urged both parties to continue banking on the gains of peace process, asking the stakeholders to continue supporting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“The CAB, BBL, and the comprehensive peace process is not for the benefit of the MILF but about addressing the historical injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro communities. The peace process hopes to achieve the contribution to the prosperity and resilience in Mindanao such as job opportunities for the youth, education for our children, infrastructures, incomes for home-grown businesses, and delivery of primary services especially to conflict-affected areas.” he said.

The proposed BBL is a legal document which will operationalize the final peace agreement with the MILF. The Senate and House of Representatives are expected to pass the law in May.

“This long-awaited legislation (BBL) will serve as the core of a regional government, one that is stronger than ARMM,” ANAK Mindanao Party List Representative Amhilda Sangcopan said during the celebration.

“ANAK Mindanao believes that the true spirit of law-making is drafting the laws that address the needs and aspirations of the most-pressing interests of the Bangsamoro people,” she added.

By | March 27th, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments