Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Philippines: Mindanao peace advocates offer parallel peace agenda

Source: Government of the Philippines

by Cpt Emmanuel R Garcia

Davao City (27 April) -- While the GRP-MILF peace panels negotiated for an interim agreement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in the last two days, the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW) was also brewing a document called the Mindanao People's Peace Agenda (MPPA) that they plan to offer to the two negotiating panels as Mindanao civil society's blueprint towards a common peace platform.

"After almost four years of community, grassroots, multi-sectoral and multi-network consultations and a long, grueling process of validation, we finally have this historic document," stated Gus Miclat of the Davao-based regional advocacy organization Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) which is MPW's lead secretariat.

He described the MPPA's 14-point agenda as primarily an affirmation of the right to self-determination of the peoples of Mindanao while calling on government to develop a cohesive national peace policy and pursue a negotiated peaceful settlement of the conflict.

"This is our humble contribution, the grassroots civil society organizations in Mindanao, to the agenda of the government and the MILF peace panels. With this document, we hope to put the agenda of the people within the agenda of these players who, like us, have been searching for a peaceful solution to Mindanao," stated Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian priest who spent years in Basilan in the 1970s and 1980s and convenor of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga and the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace. Calvo is MPW's current lead convenor.

In a previous statement, Guiamel Alim, Chairman of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society and one of the lead convenors of the network said that the document does not intend to supplant or replace existing processes such as the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but will in fact affirm these and try to identify gaps that may still surface.

"I speak on behalf of my fellow Lumads who have often felt left out in the past by a number of plans and agendas by the government and other sectors. Some documents include us in the footnote while others dedicate maybe a sentence or a paragraph but the MPPA is unique because it carries the Lumads' aspirations and hopes with it," stated Roldan Babilon, an Arumanen Manobo from Carmen, North Cotabato and a member of the Mindanao People's Peace Movement.

Around 60 community leaders of the BangsaMoro, Lumad and settlers from all over Mindanao convened in the city on the same days that the GRP-MILF peace panels met in Kuala Lumpur and while Tri-partite talks on the GRP-MNLF final peace agreement was also ongoing in Libya. The KL talks are on the verge of a proposed interim agreement on transitional mechanism on governance, which will bridge the present and the incoming administrations in the Philippines.

With the impending national elections, Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF's deputy for political affairs has conceded in a news interview that appeared in Manila Times yesterday that a peace deal with the present administration is unlikely but expressed optimism that the interim agreeement will preserve the gains of the talks and will be followed through by the next president.

The Mindanao PeaceWeavers also expressed hope that the next president will continue the peace talks and is hoping to launch the Mindanao People's Peace Agenda before the elections to lobby its 14-point agenda to presidential candidates and to both the GRP and MILF negotiating panels. (IID)

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