Galvez lauds EU-funded program for enhancing Bangsamoro government’s capacity for good governance

COTABATO CITY – Presidential Peace Adviser and Defense Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. underscored the crucial role the international donor community has played in enhancing the capacity of the Bangsamoro government for good, effective and responsive governance.

Speaking during the third Project Steering Committee Meeting of the Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA) here on Monday, Galvez commended the SUBATRA Team for the major accomplishments it has achieved since it was launched in 2021.

“I commend the SUBATRA Team for the outstanding work you have done since you started operations,” he said, noting how the European Union-supported project is helping to institutionalize best governance practices in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Capacitating the BARMM gov’t

Co-financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), under an agreement with the Government of the Philippines, the SUBATRA Program “contributes to a smooth and timely undertaking of the transition through capacity building of the three branches of the Bangsamoro Government (executive, legislative and judicial) and civil society organizations.”

“The activities you have carried out to strengthen the capacities for good and effective governance of the BARMM executive offices, enhance the legislative functions of the BTA parliament, and improve the judicial functions of the Bangsamoro justice system, as well as boost the capacities of civil society organizations, are now being felt and making an impact across all levels of the bureaucracy and society as a whole,” Galvez said.

“Given the SUBATRA’s impressive track record, there is no doubt that the initiatives you will be undertaking will address the emerging needs of the BARMM government, given the reconstitution of the new BTA, and the growing demands on the interim administration to make an impact on the lives of the Bangsamoro people,” he added.

In his remarks, BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, who is also co-chair of SUBATRA’s Project Steering Committee, commended the SUBATRA for its achievements during the first year of program implementation.

“I would like to take note and congratulate the good progress made under the SUBATRA Program…for its remarkable progress and achievements,” Ebrahim said.

“As the program has already implemented the year one [of its deliverables], it has already accomplished several milestones and seems to be on track in achieving its targets,” he added.

With the SUBATRA’s impressive performance, Ebrahim said he would like to see how the Program “can support us in the passage of priority codes that are now embodied in our legislative agenda” such as the Local Government Code, Electoral Code and Revenue Code.”

He likewise expressed his “profound gratitude to Sec. Carlito Galvez for providing steadfast support to maintaining peace in the Bangsamoro region, as he congratulated the secretary “for leading again the implementation of the peace process.”

Strengthening BARMM’s institutions

For his part, SUBATRA director Engr. Mohajirin Ali presented the program’s key accomplishments for Year 1 covering the period August 2021 to July 2022, its proposed work plan for Year 2, and the six resolutions that were approved by the SUBATRA Project Steering Committee during the meeting.

“The [BTA’s] transition period is critical because it is where the government of the day established political institutions, the bureaucracy, the core legal framework and more importantly, the socio-economic development roadmap that as extensively laid out in the Bangsamoro Transition Plan, the 2020-2022 12-Point Priority Agenda of our Chief Minister and the first Bangsamoro Development Plan,” he explained.

According to Ali, the SUBATRA “operates against this backdrop” and this is the reason why the program’s focus for year one has been “to support and strengthen the institutions established by the government of the day.”

“The strategies of the SUBATRA are two-pronged: First we strengthen [BARMM] institutions by helping enhance their mandates, plans and business processes and providing them with ICT multi-media tools and equipment. A critical component of this strategy is piloting mechanisms gained from these interventions,” he said.

“Then we provided training, coaching, and scale up knowledge and experience from the intervention. In terms of approach, we make sure that our approaches are in line with the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the 12-Point Priority Agenda and the first BDP’s goals,” Ali added.

Key recommendations

During the discussions, Galvez outlined several key recommendations which he hoped the SUBATRA Project Steering Committee would consider and adopt.

The first is a proposal for the program’s Steering Committee to support the national government’s efforts to strengthen the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) as an institution.

“The IGR Body is very powerful considering that the IGR is incorporated in the [Bangsamoro Organic] Law. The IGRB is very important because it is shepherding the different national departments and the Bangsamoro ministries,” Galvez pointed out.

“Under the IGRB are seven inter-governmental bodies…The acceptability of the Bangsamoro [interim government] will be enhanced considering that it will include the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, and the members of Congress,” he added.

This move, Galvez said, “would elevate the capacity of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority to be legitimized by year 2025. So that it will gather a lot of support if you will enhance the IGR body.”

Galvez second proposal is for the SUBATRA Steering Committee to support efforts of the national and Bangsamoro governments to develop the BARMM’s justice system, which is anchored on Sharia Law.

He recalled the visit he made with seven Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, to Marawi City last year wherein they committed to help spread the culture of peace in Mindanao and throughout the country by strengthening the rule of law.

Galvez remembered Gesmundo’s exact words: “Without peace, there will be no development. But we should also agree that there is no peace if there is no rule of law and justice.”

The peace adviser’s third proposal is for the SUBATRA Steering Committee to support the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity’s (OPAPRU) efforts to mainstream peace education in the basic and higher education sectors.

Galvez said that OPAPRU is now in the process of enhancing Executive Order 570, in which universities across the country will be required to set up a peace center in support of the national government’s efforts to promote the culture of peace.

“I believe that we can enhance those [peacebuilding] activities [under E0 570] because we believe that the recruitment of violent extremists will be coming from those who are not educated, who lack the understanding of dialogue,” he noted.

Galvez’s fourth proposal is for the SUBATRA Steering Committee to help ensure the completion of the BARMM’s priority legislation such as the Electoral Code and Local Government Code within the first quarter of this year.

He believes that once these codes are passed, it will “give more confidence” to the Filipino people and the national government on the Bangsamoro government’s capacity to chart the region’s socio-economic and socio-political development.

After the SUBATRA Steering Committee Meeting, Galvez led the turn over of coasters donated by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to the Bangsamoro Parliament.

“These coasters, which are worth Php 5 million, will be used by the Bangsamoro parliament in its daily operations, especially as it carries out its main mandate of legislating laws, and most importantly, reaching out and serving the needs of their constituents,” he said.

Courtesy Calls

During his visit to Cotabato, Galvez also paid a courtesy call to Ebrahim wherein the two discussed key developments in the Bangsamoro peace process.

The chief minister likewise congratulated Galvez on his appointment as defense chief.

From Cotabato, Galvez flew to Davao City to meet with Moro National Liberation Front Founding Chair Nur Misuari.

During the meeting, the peace adviser reaffirmed his commitment to the peace process with the MNLF, saying he is committed more than ever to sustain and build on the gains of peace with the Moro group.

For his part, Misuari congratulated Galvez for being named as Defense secretary.

“I will remain committed to pursue the peace process in Mindanao as part of the guidance of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to fulfill the realization of the Bangsamoro peace process as contained in the peace agreements,” Galvez said. ###

PAMANA turns over motorized boats to Bangsamoro fishermen

BABAK, ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL – Thirty members of a Bangsamoro fishermen’s group and their families expect to significantly raise their incomes with the help of motorized fishing boats provided under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program.


Contract signing formalizes engagement of FRs to help in the implementation of the NTF-ELCAC Transformation Program

PASAY CITY – Former rebels, now referred to as friends rescued (FRs), signed on Monday a contract with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), which officially makes them members of a Special Project Team (SPT) who will help implement the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Transformation Program.

The contract signing between the ex-leaders of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee and the OPAPRU was held at the Philippine International Convention Center.

The Transformation Program is a Whole of Nation Approach and is a component of the Localized Peace Engagement (LPE) Framework under the NTF-ELCAC.

It aims to sustain FRs and eventually integrate them into the mainstream of society, and enable communities to become resilient against CTG radicalization and recruitment efforts.

Under the agreement, the FR leaders will be mentored by the OPAPRU so that they can assist the peace agency in managing and monitoring the various components of the Transformation Program, which include confidence-building, healing and reconciliation, and socio-economic initiatives.

In his message to the SPT members, Galvez expressed his support to the FRs who are now official partners of the OPAPRU in carrying out peacebuilding interventions.

“Sa araw na ito, ay masaya akong makita na ang mga miyembro ng FR organization na ito, partikular na ang Regional at Component Coordinators, ay gumawa na naman ng isang napakahalagang hakbang sa kanilang paglalakbay tungo sa kapayapaan. Sapagkat ngayong hapon na ito, kanilang pipirmahan ang kanilang kontrata bilang mga special project team members ng ating Transformation Program sa Zamboanga Peninsula,” Galvez said.

The members of the SPT will act as consultants, coordinators and facilitators who will be tasked to provide more accurate and updated information on the progress the FRs are making as they reintegrate themselves into mainstream society.

The FRs-turned-development workers will also assist the OPAPRU’s Area Management Units (AMUs) and other technical personnel in formulating better and more responsive programs that aim to address the needs of their communities and neighboring conflict-vulnerable areas.

“Ang kontratang inyong pipirmahan ay magfo-formamalize sa ating pagtutulungan. Lahat kayong mga resident-coordinators ay aming magiging katuwang sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t ibang component ng Transformation Program,” Galvez added.

Ret. MGen. Rene Glen Paje, OPAPRU consultant, said the agency shall continue to undertake interventions that will build on and sustain the gains of peace in the region.

“In the past three years, there have been massive efforts to expose the lies of the CPP-NPA-NDF and while much has been gained, the OPAPRU still continues its unrelenting efforts towards peace by looking after those who have chose to turn their backs against the armed struggle and pursue a path towards peaceful transformation,” Paje said.

The FR leaders, he said, will act as liaison between their communities LGUs and the OPAPRU in order to facilitate the transformation of individuals, families and communities in line with the agency’s objectives.

“To implement this, OPAPRU has come up with a move to organize our former rebels so that we can provide better support and more effective services and have easy monitoring of the needs and conditions of our FRs and their communities. They have been working to achieve the objectives of the Transformation Program,” Paje said.

Benjhed Dongalo, one of the SPT members, said they are thankful for taking part in the contract signing, as it officially gives them a role as peace and development workers.

“Siguro po ‘yung importance ng event na ito ay ‘yung legal matters, kagaya ng kaso ng ibang kasamahan namin, ‘yung safe conduct pass at ‘yung amnesty. Sa pamamagitan ng SPT, mas mapapakinggan na kami sa [mga] usaping kagaya nito,” Dongalo said.

Dongalo decided to move out from the NPA in August 2020. According to her, it was the constant fear and stress that led her to finally lay down her arms and return to the folds of the law.

“Sa pagbaba namin, unang-una, natakot kami ang propaganda kasi sa kabundukan, ‘pag bumaba daw kami, papatayin kami, ito-torture. Laking pasasalamat ko na hindi naman pala totoo. Naranasan ko paano nila [government] ako trinato bilang tao. Kinukumusta ako, pinakain ako, binilhan pa ako ng damit at mga gamot,” she said.

Dongalo, along with other SPT members, were elected as Officers of Zamboanga Peninsula Regional FR Organization during the FR Summit last October 6, 2022 in Pagadian City.

Their oath-taking was administered by Secretary Galvez on October 7, 2022. ###


National and Bangsamoro gov’t Intergovernmental Relations Body convenes under Marcos administration

DAVAO CITY (1 December 2022) – Members of the national and Bangsamoro governments aim to strengthen their collaborative efforts on how to move the Bangsamoro peace process forward as the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) convened for its twelfth meeting, its first under the Marcos administration.

In her opening remarks, Budget and Management Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman, who serves as IGRB co-chairperson for the national government side, noted the body’s recent accomplishments which include the inaugural meeting of the IGRB under the Marcos administration and the successful convening of the Philippine Congress – Bangsamoro Parliament Forum (PCBPF).

“At this inaugural meeting of the PCBPF last Nov. 15, we were able to garner legislative support from the National Government and Bangsamoro Parliament in pursuit of our Agenda for Prosperity for BARMM and Mindanao,” Pangandaman said.

“Everything we’ve done up to this point is a step in the right direction for our shared goal of inclusive prosperity for the whole Philippines. Today, as we continue on this path towards lasting peace and prosperity for BARMM, Mindanao, and the country, I pray that our meeting will be one of many successful meetings in resolving the various issues relating to BARMM,” she added.

For his part, Minister Mohagher Iqbal, IGRB co-chair for the Bangsamoro Government side, highlighted the instrumental role of the body in the region’s quest for meaningful autonomy.

“The role of the IGR body during the transition period and even beyond, is crucial in our quest to establish genuine autonomy and meaningful self-governance in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. It is along this line that we need to, once again, review the provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to determine IGR issues that need to be addressed, discussed, and resolved at the level of this IGR Body.”

Iqbal also encouraged the body to make use of their time “wisely, efficiently and effectively in this exercise, while at the same time, build strong collaborations and lasting relationships along the way. As I always say, once you have ensured good working relations with your counterpart, half of your work is done.”

Key role in nation-building

In a press briefing following the IGRB meeting, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos emphasized that the IGRB is an indispensable mechanism in nation building.

Abalos noted that the IGRB was created to resolve pressing issues and concerns regarding the implementation of the BOL.

He also lauded the body for what it has accomplished so far, saying, “issues are tackled in a pleasant manner because both parties are not only thinking about the autonomy of the BARMM, but as well as the unity of the country. I would like to congratulate our two chairs for handling this challenging task.”

For his part, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. threw the OPAPRU’s full support behind the body.

“The Bangsamoro peace process is one of the priorities of the Marcos administration. We witnessed the President [has] expressed his support during the region’s recent milestones, which include the oath-taking of the new Bangsamoro Transition Authority and also their inaugural session. As a support to the President’s order, we are dedicating resources to ensure its successful implementation,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo, Jr. reaffirmed President Marcos’ full support for the body.

“The instructions for me in particular, is to make sure to provide what’s needed in the BARMM and national government. The President is also very positive in the recent developments, and is looking forward [to] a better relationship between the BARMM and the national government,” Lagdameo said.

“Rest assured that we’re backing up everyone here. We’re here to assist and here to help,” he added.

IGRB composition

Under Section 2, Article VI of the BOL, the IGRB was created to coordinate and resolve issues between the two parties through regular consultation and continuing negotiation in a non-adversarial manner.

The IGRB has seven mechanisms, which include the Philippine Congress – Bangsamoro Parliament Forum, Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board, Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation, Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board, Intergovernmental Energy Board, Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board, and the Council of Leaders.

The members of the IGRB from the national government include Special Assistant to the President Sec. Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo, Jr.; Secretary of Finance Benjamin F. Diokno; Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Atty. Benhur C. Abalos, Jr.; Department of National Defense Senior Usec. Jose C. Faustino, Jr.; Secretary of Public Works and Highways Manuel F. Bonoan; Secretary of Energy Raphael P.M. Lotilla; Department of Agriculture Senior Usec. Domingo F. Panganiban; Secretary of Transportation Jaime J. Bautista; Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning Arsenio M. Balisacan, and OPAPRU Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr..

The Bangsamoro government’s representatives to the IGRB include Speaker of the BTA Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) Ali Pangalian M. Balindong; Senior Min. Abdulraof A. Macacua; Cab. Sec. Mohd Asnin K. Pendatun; Minister of Finance, Budget and Management Ubaida C. Pacasem; Minister of the Interior and Local Government Naguib G. Sinarimbo; Minister of Social Services and Development Raissa H. Jajurie; Minister of Public Works Eduard U. Guerra; Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform Mohammad S. Yacob; Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Akmad A. Brahim; and Minister of Transportation and Communication Paisalin C. Tago.

The IGRB is supported by a Joint Secretariat co-headed by OPAPRU Executive Director Wilben M. Mayor and Bangsamoro Attorney-General Atty. Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba. ###

Türkiye envoy says PH peace process a ‘model’ for other countries

PICC, PASAY CITY — Türkiye Ambassador H.E. Niyazi Evren Akyol expressed his government’s full support to the comprehensive Philippine peace process, noting that it is something that other countries can get inspiration from.

Aykol made this commitment during a courtesy visit to Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Glvez Jr. here last November 26.

“It is actually said in the UN speech of President Marcos, when he said we have achieved this great moment [in the peace process]. And I present this to you as our example to work this way if you are elected to a security council,” Aykol said.

“Our world is full of conflict and the peace process in the Southern Philippines. We know how difficult and impossible it was. And now we can say it is possible. It is actually a model in my opinion for mediation efforts that other countries can use. Not only the present situation of BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) but the process is more important, how it has gotten there,” he pointed out.

Sustaining the gains of peace

During the meeting between the Turkish envoy and Galvez, the two discussed the peacebuilding interventions being carried out by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) in support of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

This initiatives include, among others the delivery of the socioeconomic interventions to the six previously government-acknowledged Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps and 33 core barangays outside the Bangsamoro region; the implementation of the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons; and the provision of capacity-building support to the BARMM government to ensure its smooth transition until the first BARMM elections in 2025.

Galvez emphasized that the implementation of the normalization process is crucial, as fulfilling the national government’s commitments under the CAB is expected to pave the way for the signing of an Exit Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF by the end of 2024.

The peace adviser also briefed Aykol on the Transformation Program to be implemented for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members; the Normalization Program being carried out for members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA), and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPM-P/RPA/ABB-TPG) now called Kapatiran; as well as the capacity-building efforts that are helping former communist rebels rebuild their lives.

Türkiye’s commitment to Bangsamoro peace process

“I’d like to note that Türkiye is a long time partner in the peace process. We have the best interest in the success of the peace process and its stability in the Philippines,” Aykol said.

“The implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and now, the functioning of the BARMM, these are the turning point for a lasting peace in the Southern Philippines,” he added.

Cooperation between the Philippines and Türkiye encompasses a wide range of areas, including trade, commerce, education, and peace and development.

The Turkish Government, through its Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has been implementing various socio-economic interventions in the Bangsamoro since 2015.

In 2017, Türkiye’s bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines reached to $1,490,000.

Among the programs the TIKA has implemented include livelihood projects in cooperation with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the delivery of a Php7 million mobile operating clinic to help in the implementation of the Comprehensive Bangsamoro Health Development Program.

Recently, TIKA has also provided educational materials and medical equipment to schools and clinics catering to the needs of the Muslim community in Mindanao.

The development agency has also supported the Bangsamoro Rescue Team (BARET), an independent non-partisan humanitarian organization operating in Cotabato City and neighboring provinces.

In particular, TIKA has provided the team with an emergency response vehicle and other equipment such as stretchers, wheelchairs, portable oxygen, communication and radio sets, and fire safety equipment.

“Allow us to express our gratitude and of course beyond that, the strong commitment of President Marcos Jr. [to our nations’ strong partnership]. I’ve been talking to other ambassadors who are interested in the peace process and have joined our voice in praising President Marcos’ strong leadership,” Galvez told Akyol.

Support to decommissioning process

“We deeply appreciate the successful finalizing of these agreements, but his commitment is most admirable and we are supporting him in any way we can. You can trust and rely on us, [as] we will continue to go further, especially on the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) which is very important,” Aykol said in response.

The IDB was established in 2014 by the GPH and MILF to oversee the process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons in accordance with the CAB.

The body is composed of three international experts (including the IDB chairperson) and four local experts jointly nominated by the GPH and MILF. Türkiye has chaired the IDB since its inception.

Galvez thanked the Turkish government for its unwavering support and commitment to help push forward the Philippine peace process.

“We thank the Turkish government for their support. Despite the distance of our countries, Türkiye has always felt close, through their programs and projects implemented here in our country. Thank you for the commitment and rest assured that our government will always be willing to help any way possible,” Galvez said. ###

OPAPRU to push for institutionalization of Human Fraternity Document

DAVAO CITY (24 November 2022) – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) vowed to push for the promotion, adoption and institutionalization of the Human Fraternity Document across all key sectors of society.


JPST Tungawan Station: A symbol of GPH-MILF unity in Zamboanga Sibugay

TUNGAWAN, ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY — The white and blue-painted structure standing at the heart of this coastal municipality has become a symbol of the enduring partnership between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


Message of Secretary Carlito G Galvez, Jr. for the Mindanao Week of Peace 2022 Celebration

The men and women of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) join all of you, our fellow peace builders, peace advocates and peace workers, as you celebrate the Mindanao Week of Peace with the theme “Harnessing our Peace Efforts: Towards Solidarity.”


OPAPRU continues relief efforts in storm-stricken MILF, MNLF communities in Mindanao

MATANOG, MAGUINDANAO (21 November 2022) — To augment the national government’s disaster relief efforts in provinces affected by Typhoon Paeng in the Bangsamoro region and neighboring areas, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) continued the distribution of assistance packages to victims.

The OPAPRU’s relief operations are focused on Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities that were severely hit by the typhoon.


Former warrior gives up arms for “peace of mind”

PANTAO-RAGAT, LANAO DEL NORTE — “Ngayon, pwede na kami lumabas, [at] pumunta ng palengke. Malaya [na] kaming maghanap ng hanapbuhay.”

This was shared by Guro (not his real name), a former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatant, when asked how his life and that of his family have changed after he underwent the decommissioning process in 2019 together with his comrades.