KAPATIRAN members join Neg. Occ. week of peace celebrations

KABANKALAN CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL (26 November 2019)— As Negros Occidental celebrates its week of peace, residents decided to commemorate it with one of the key stakeholders of the local peace process – the KAPATIRAN. (more…)

Empowering communities through infrastructure

BRGY. MACASANDAG, PARANG, MAGUINDANAO (August 20, 2019)  — Infrastructure boosts incomes, creates more and better economic opportunities, and empowers communities.

This is becoming a reality for the residents of this agriculture-based barangay after receiving a Level III Water Supply System under the national government’s PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) initiative. (more…)

Dureza urges Surigao del Norte rebels to return to civilian life

Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, August 28, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza today urged local rebels here to stop fighting so that development can continue in the area.

Ang gusto ng ating Presidente Rodrigo Roa Duterte, kung pwede ‘di na tayo mag-away. ‘Di na tayo magpatayan. Magkaisa na tayo (What President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wants is for us to stop fighting. Let’s stop killing each other. Let’s be united instead),” Dureza said in his message at the inauguration of the LASICAM Bridge in Barangay Sico-Sico on Tuesday.

Magbalik na kayo nang bukal sa inyong puso. Malaki ang suporta sa inyo ng Presidente (Come back to the folds of the law wholeheartedly. The President is giving you a lot of support),” he added.

The bridge passes through the three barangays of Lahi, Sico-Sico, and Camam-onan in the Municipality of Gigaquit — known stronghold corridors of local insurgents in Surigao del Norte for decades.

The project will benefit more than 3,000 residents by giving them access to socio-economic services carried out by the national and local government. The bridge will also give local farmers and residents better access to market sites.

Dureza said the bridge is part of government’s emphasis on working on peace and development simultaneously.

“You cannot sustain peace if you do not improve the lives of people. Conversely, you cannot also sustain development without peace. Dapat iyan, hand-in-hand,” he said.

For her part, Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas extended her gratitude to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for funding the project through the 2015 PAyapa at MAsaganang  PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program – calling the completed project “Bridge of Hope” (Tulay nan Paglaum).

Itong tulay ang magsisilbing daan para sa mga bisita. Maraming mga proyekto ang darating upang ang mga nakatira dito ay maging mapayapa at masagana (This bridge will serve as the way for visitors. Many projects will be brought here so that residents can live in peace and prosperity),” Matugas said.

Speaking on behalf of the Mamanwa Tribe within the community, Datu Emilliano Jede recalled how their people endured walking for one whole day just to reach the town proper.

“Dati, pag papunta kaming bayan, magkalakad kami nang isang araw. Ngayon, dahil may kalsada na, sandali lang makakarating na kami sa bayan (We used to spend a whole day walking to the town. With this road, we can reach it in a short time),” Jede said.

All in all, a total of P210 million was allocated for the implementation of the project. OPAPP tapped the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as implementing partner.

The inauguration, which coincided with the launch of Caraga Peace and Development Zones that includes Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, attracted nearly 300 attendees, including locals from Barangay Sico-sico and representatives from OPAPP, DILG, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and the local government units. ###

Dureza: BOL to benefit everyone

Magpet, Cotabato, August 13, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the recently-passed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will benefit not just certain groups or sectors but all those who desire peace and development in Mindanao.

“This (BOL) is not only for the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Bangsamoro people but for all,” Dureza told hundreds of residents gathered here for the 55th anniversary celebration of the Municipality of Magpet.

“There must be inclusivity, not exclusivity,” he said, emphasizing the fact that the historic law, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27, recognizes the diversity and ethnicity of the people of Mindanao, especially the indigenous peoples (IPs).

“We really need to give attention to our Lumads. Each (tribal) group has its own perspective and concerns,” he said, noting that Magpet’s 29 barangays have Lumads in their respective populations.

“In our work for peace, we need to give importance to all (stakeholders),” he added.

Dureza said this is the reason why issues confronting Mindanao’s IPs should not be ignored but be decisively addressed by government.  

He said working for peace is not an easy task and entails dealing with rebel organizations that have varied and competing ideologies.

Recognizing this reality, Dureza said the current peace and security situation in Mindanao cannot be resolved mainly through military force.

He noted that most of the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao are underdeveloped and poverty-stricken and therefore require a multi-pronged approach.

“We are not only negotiating for peace but also helping to improve the lives of the people,” he said.

Dureza said under the Duterte Administration’s Peace and Development Roadmap, it is crucial not only to sign peace agreements “but also to bring in development.”

He said peace and development should not happen one after the other but should take place simultaneously.

“Peace is needed to sustain development. They must come hand in hand,” he said.

In a separate consultation meeting with members of the Lumad community here, Dureza assured the IPs of the national government’s continued support.

He said this is the reason behind the establishment of the IP Peace Panel which is being headed by Atty. Reuben Lingating.

“You are among the most affected. We are not only here to listen but act on your concerns,” he said.

At the same meeting, Lingating noted that 28 years after the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) Law, Mindanao’s indigenous peoples still have to enjoy its benefits.

“Twenty eight years have passed but it seems there have been no changes in the lives of the people,” he said.

Lingating challenged the IPs to unite, plan, and work hard towards making their communities progressive.

“There must be convergence. It would be difficult to move on if you don’t have concrete plans,” he said. ###

Sorsogon’s seaweed farming industry on verge of revival

SORSOGON CITY, July 28, 2018 — Cherry Legaspi can vividly recall when the Province of Sorsogon made a name for itself as one of the biggest seaweed producers in the region back in the day.

Working at the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist for decades, Cherry saw how hard the province worked to meet the demand for raw dried seaweed in other parts of the Bicol Region and even Cebu.

“Noong 1990s ang seaweed sa probinsya, napakaganda. Pumupunta pa rito ang mga barko galing Cebu, halos lahat dito kumukuha sa province (The seaweed production in the province was very good back in the 1990s. Ships from as far away as Cebu would come here to get their supply),” Cherry said in an interview.

But in early 2000s, the seaweed industry in the province faced a gradual decline. Local fisherfolk had to depend solely on fishing to make ends meet.

In 2017, the provincial government learned of the 2017 PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and decided to seize the opportunity it presented.

“Noong 2017, humingi ang PAMANA ng proposal. So kami naman sa fisheries division gumawa ng proposal to intensify and revive the seaweed production (PAMANA asked for proposals in 2017. So we in the fisheries division submitted a proposal to intensify and revive seaweed production),” Cherry said.

Through the 2017 PAMANA Program, OPAPP worked hand-in-hand with the provincial government to give the seaweed industry a brand new start.

A total of P22 million was allocated for the province. Of this amount, P17 million was spent for the construction of post-harvest facilities while P5 million was allotted for the production of a 16-hectare seaweed farm.

Fourteen fisherfolk organizations with more than 300 individual members across the province went through extensive training for skills that would help them sustain their own seaweed farms.

Rica Abla, an officer of one the organizations, said the project is an alternative livelihood to fishing especially now that there has been a significant decline in fish catch.

“Kasi ngayon ramdam ang hirap, ramdam din ang kakulangan. Dumami na rin iyong mga mangingisda, may time talaga na kulang (iyong huli). So iyong seaweed na iyon, magiging alternative para papahingahin muna ang karagatan (These days we really feel the hardship. And because the number of fishermen has increased, there are times when the catch is really small. Seaweed production will be a good alternative as we let the waters recover),” Rica said.

“So itong programa ng OPAPP ay makakadagdag sa hanapbuhay para sa aming mga pamilya, at para sa pagpapa-aral ng mga anak. Kumbaga maitatawid namin iyong buhay sa ganitong paraan (This OPAPP program will add income to our families and allow us to continue sending our children to school. We can make ends meet through this),” she added.

For his part, Provincial Governor Robert Rodrigueza urged the communist rebels in the province to return and live a civilian life, saying this project will give them opportunities to live decent lives.

“Malaking tulong talaga sa mga mangingisda kaya sa nakikita ko, iyong ating mga kaibigan o kababayan dyan sa taas, mas mae-engganyo silang bumaba na dahil nandito ang gobyerno — nakabukas ang kamay handang tumulong sa kanila (This is a big help to fisherfolk, and I also see that our friends in the mountains can be enticed to come down as they realize that government is here and ready to help them),” Rodrigueza said.

As for Cherry, her hope remains that it will not be long before the Province of Sorsogon carves out its name again as one of the biggest players in the seaweed industry.

“With this project na funded ng OPAPP, baka ito na iyong susi na mabuhay ulit iyong industriya ng seaweed sa buong probinsya na makakatulong talaga sa fishing communities (This OPAPP-funded project can be the key to reviving the seaweed industry in the whole province and help the fishing communities),” she said. ###

Bridging hope and unity for the Lumads

BRGY. GUPITAN, KAPALONG, DAVAO DEL NORTE—At first glance, the situation seemed tense as an “encounter” was about to occur.

On one side of the bridge were hundreds of Lumads holding bladed weapons and bearing strongly-worded placards urging local rebel forces to stop their illicit activities and let them live in peace.

At the other side were representatives of government led by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza who came from Davao City to visit this remote, hinterland community.

But the encounter turned out to be a meeting of the minds and hearts, as both groups walked towards each other and shook hands in a symbolic gesture of peace, understanding and solidarity.

Sec. Dureza and local officials of Kapalong then lighted candles and recited a prayer before cutting the ceremonial ribbon to inaugurate the Patel Bridge, which was built under the Pamana at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

PAMANA is under the oversight of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). It is the national government’s convergence program that provides development assistance to isolated, hard-to-reach, conflict-affected communities across the country.

In his remarks, Sec. Dureza stressed the need to understand the reasons why some have decided to take up arms and are now waging a guerrilla war against the government.

He noted that these individuals are “angry at the national leadership” because they feel left out from the mainstream of development.

The peace adviser said this is why he wants to engage people in meaningful discussions and find out how their concerns can be best addressed.

“Dialogue is only half of the work of peace-building,” he said in the vernacular, adding that the “other half is carrying out programs” that would help uplift the lives of residents.

Sec. Dureza pointed out that the implementation of projects such as the Patel Bridge is a concrete manifestation of the government’s desire to make economic growth more inclusive by bringing development to the countryside.

Citing the “chicken and egg” analogy, he emphasized that peace and development should not come one after the other but instead “should come hand in hand.”

In the case of Kapalong, Sec. Dureza revealed that there a lot of prospective investors who are interested to do business in the area but are concerned over their safety.

He said that it is therefore the role of government to create an enabling environment where trade and investment can flourish.

“It is good to talk [about peace] but we also need to bring in investments,” Sec. Dureza said, as he introduced Board of Investments Governor Napoleon Concepcion who was part of his contingent.

According to the government’s top peace negotiator, a number of investors have already expressed interest in establishing palm oil and coffee plantations in the municipality.

Citing the “Datu Paglas experience,” Sec. Dureza said that it is very much possible to transform conflict-affected areas into peaceful, progressive communities.

“In Datu Paglas, the residents decided to lay down their rifles and use ploughshares instead,” he said.

Sec. Dureza said that maintaining peace in the community is not only the responsibility of the security sector, as he urged the residents of Kapalong to be more pro-active and become agents of peace.

“You are the first line of defense. You should be the first to tell others to stop fighting government and turn a new leaf,” he said.

“You can’t bring peace if you don’t have peace within yourself,” Sec. Dureza added.

At the same event, tribal leader Datu Larry Masaluon declared that he and his fellow Lumads were very pleased with the recently completed infrastructure projects in the community.

“These roads and bridges,..These would put an end to our poverty,” Masuluon said.

“We are very happy with the support given to us by government,” he said. “We are all united in our quest for peace.”

For her part, Kapalong Mayor Karen Theresa Timbol said that with the completion of the Patel Bridge, their long-held dream has finally become a reality.

“Our dream has been realized because of our unity as a people,” she said.

Mayor Timbol said that there are those who are saying the government is not doing its job of providing for the needs of its people.

“That is untrue,” she stressed, saying “We need to show them that all we want is development and to provide a better life or our people.”

 

 

Behind the scenes and beyond means: construing the legacy of the peace process

Neither the swelling heat nor the crowded covered court can dampen the jovial mood of thousands of Laua-anons in Antique in celebration of their town’s 103rd founding anniversary and 13th Pahinis Festival. The buoyant cheers from students, teachers, elders and townsfolk were widely heard amidst the rhythmic beating of the drums, as they welcomed the arrival of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza for the first time.

However, in the middle of the applauding crowd was a frightened soul ready for a ceremonial offering: a wild pig bound by its legs, occasionally crying for mercy.

The soft clanks of metal signaled its verdict – a tribe elder raised his spear and bolo, chanted a prayer for good harvest and protection, and danced with the music as he slowly circled around the creature. From time to time, the elder will either strike his spear straight to the pig’s abdomen or slash with his bolo. The piercing screech of agony that came afterwards was undeniable.

The swine, drenched in its own blood, was hard to miss.

“I am sorry, Mayor – I know this is not part of the program. But may I intervene?”

Dureza stood up, politely asking to halt the ritual as well. The music faltered and the crowd waited in bated breath as the peace adviser addressed the town’s local chief.

“I can see the upset expressions of our audience here. So may I ask if we can compromise instead and beg for mercy on this pig’s life?”

Now addressing the tribal elder, Dureza continued, “I hope that we would not offend your tribe if we ask to postpone this ritual. First of all, I respect the culture that your tribe is practicing. However, I am also considering the beliefs of other people here, some of whom are Muslims.”

Dureza, repeating his request, said: “That is why I am asking you to postpone the ritual and just come up with an agreement – how about you take this pig to your home, take care of it until it grows, and then you can kill it when it’s healthier? Mayor will send me a kilo of this to Davao as a remembrance of our agreement. Is it okay with you?”

A warm round of applause ensued after Dureza’s proposition. Both the mayor and the tribe elder agreed, chuckling, and the spared pig was promptly removed out of the center stage.

To save, not to kill

The intervention that morning was a reflection of the work behind the peace process. Advocates envisioned a just and lasting peace that involves saving more lives, families and communities – not to decrease its number or to burn bridges.

“We have to work for peace together. ‘Wag niyo iiwan ang trabaho sa mayors, LGUs, o sa OPAPP because the real work to sustain peace lies in your communities,” Dureza remarked during his inspirational message at the festival’s program.

Dureza also reminded the Laua-anons that pursuing peace among their communities should start from within themselves, stressing that they cannot share what they don’t have.

New peace paradigm

Despite the armed conflicts between the government and insurgent groups, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on the other hand has been at the forefront in pursuing peace.

In the course of the peace process, the approach in handling it was also evolving. During his speech, Dureza introduced the agency’s paradigm shift that underscored how the negotiations should be a simultaneous action along with the execution of peace promoting development projects.

One example of this was the projects under the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program. These PAMANA projects were amongst the highlighted agenda during Dureza’s meeting with 47 local chiefs of Panay Island, in which he underlined the importance of fostering conflict sensitive and peace promoting initiatives in their own communities.

PAMANA is the government’s convergence initiative that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-vulnerable communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

Settling for peace

Throughout the years, peace advocates have come to learn that settlements were somehow necessary when it comes to the peace process. Both parties can present their varying priorities, but negotiations mean that the people involved should also arrive on a common ground – thus comes peace.

The process may have been long and arduous, but the little steps taken by each administration marked progress towards what the nation has been attaining for – a legacy for peace, not war. ###

OPAPP, UNDP close deal for stronger ties in peacebuilding

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a Government Cost-Sharing (GCS) Agreement on 7 December 2017 in a bid to strengthen initiatives for peacebuilding and development.

Dubbed as “Support to Peacebuilding and Normalization (SPAN) Programme”, the project intends to accelerate OPAPP initiatives on the ground as well as to equip stakeholders, peace workers and advocates with tools for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Amongst the government programs that will receive support under SPAN are the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan projects; Annexes on Normalization for Socio Economic and Normalization for Security as stated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB); and social healing and peacebuilding programs for Marawi.

Further to UNDP’s support also include procurement of supplies and equipment, monitoring and evaluation, administrative support and technical advisory services.

“There are two things here that we need support from UNDP: first is how to fast track projects with good quality implementation; and second is capacity building. We at OPAPP admit that we still lack that capacity to perform on the ground and we need that mentoring from UNDP,” stated Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza.

In his message, UNDP Country Director Titon Mitra also thanked OPAPP for placing its trust in UNDP. “This is your money – the Filipino people and its taxpayers’ money that is coming through UNDP. I can guarantee you that you would know where every single centavo is being spent efficiently,” he said.

The implementation of SPAN will primarily focus on areas covered by CAB and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao within a year with a total amount of PHP 649,261,957.58.

Sec. Dureza: Inclusivity, key in PAMANA project implementation

SEDA HOTEL, QUEZON CITY – Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza challenged members of the security sector here to observe the principle of “inclusivity” in carrying out development projects within their respective areas of coverage.

“There must be inclusivity in your projects,” Sec. Dureza said, as he addressed top military and police officers attending the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) cluster meeting organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The PAMANA is the national government’s convergence program that carries out various development initiatives in remote, conflict-affected communities across the country, ensuring that the needs of the marginalized and underserved sectors are addressed.

Since its implementation in 2011, the program has undertaken about P50 billion worth of development projects across the nation’s conflict-prone areas.

Sec. Dureza emphasized that PAMANA projects, which are implemented in partnership with local government units and other concerned national government agencies, should benefit all sectors of the community and not only a select few.

“Don’t give them the exclusivity,” he said, referring to certain groups or sectors who are usually at the receiving end of most development projects.

Sec. Dureza said that there is a need to break away from this culture of exclusivity, which breeds corruption and creates an environment of “unpeace” in communities.

“Corruptions is a very big concern for us,” the peace adviser said, as he called on members of the security sector to help the national government address this pressing issue.

Sec. Dureza pointed out that corrupt practices are the bane of development work and must therefore be eradicated at all costs.

“You are the frontliners. We will not succeed unless we get the support of the communities,” he said.

According to him, project implementers must always use a “peace lens” to ensure the sustainability of their initiatives, while eliminating corruption at all levels of the bureaucracy.

“If there is that sense of integrity … It will pay back,” Sec. Dureza said.

He likewise stressed the value of a “buttom-up” approach in project implementation, saying that proposals “must come from below…from the people [themselves].”

“They (projects) must be processed from the bottom. It will take time but this is the way to go,” Sec. Dureza said.

In the meantime, OPAPP Undersecretary Ronald Flores explained that PAMANA is not only focused on building high-impact infrastructure projects, but is also carrying out various socio-economic initiatives as well.

“[We can do] anything under the sun that can uplift the lives of people,” Usec Flores said.

However, he lamented that there are some LGUs who are hesitant in implementing development projects in their respective communities.

Usec. Flores explained that a possible reason for this could be the belief of some local officials that as long as their towns remain remote and underdeveloped, they would continue to be on the list of donor agencies.

With this mindset, he said it would be difficult to break the cycle of violence, poverty and underdevelopment.

To address this concern, he raised the suggestion made by some sectors that the coverage areas of PAMANA projects be expanded to include other “vulnerable” communities.

Usec. Flores was referring to areas that are now being used by rebel groups to bring in new members into their fold.

The PAMANA cluster meeting today will also feature a series of workshop that aim to draw out suggestions on how the security sector can better help in the implementation of PAMANA projects, as well as identify new initiatives that would sustain the gains of peace throughout the country. ###

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