CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) in Region X made a call to the people’s organizations (POs), non-government organizations (NGOs), and civic organizations (COs) in the region to help the government address communist insurgency.
MGen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, RTF-ELCAC X Technical Working Group (TWG) chairperson and commanding officer of the 4th Infantry Division, said the capability, competence, and commitment of these groups in humanitarian aid, grassroots initiatives, local spaces for peacebuilding dialogues, and conflict resolutions and reconciliation programs are vital in attaining just and lasting peace and sustainable development in Northern Mindanao.
Forum for Sustainable Peace and Inclusive Development
The RTF-ELCAC X on Monday, December 2, organized a forum for sustainable peace and inclusive development with more than one hundred participants coming from the different POs, NGOs, and COs in Northern Mindanao.
The forum was conducted in partnership with the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc.(BMFI).
The forum aimed to provide a venue to discuss and identify areas of convergence and complementation between the RTF-ELCAC TWG and POs, NGOs and COs in the region in implementing the Convergence Areas for Peace and Development (CAPDev) program in identified priority and focus areas.
In his welcome remarks, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno said the bottom line of the whole-of-nation approach is Bayanihan.
He also emphasized the importance of solidarity in attaining lasting peace. “Mindanao has lived divided and polarized for far too long already. It’s about time that we leave the bias and prejudice behind, we leave the conflict and division of Mindanao behind, and learn to live in peace and harmony in spite of our diversity. Let us be united not only for Northern Mindanao but for the entire Mindanao,” he said.
“As we pursue this agenda, we can attain peace and order that will lead us to growth and development. Hopefully, we can sustain it and see Mindanao becoming the land of fulfillment, a land of sustainable growth and development,” he added.
Dialogue Towards Harmony
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma underscored the need for understanding the root causes of inequality and the lack of basic services to remote communities.
“If we can continue with local peace conversations, where we can bring together representatives of remote communities and representatives of the government agencies then there can be an acceleration of development projects in the right place,” he said.
He further said that the government and non-government organizations have different services to offer and if these can be harmonized through convergence and dialogue, then they can build a society that is peaceful and developing for all.
“We hope that with this gathering, the church and other church leaders can continue our roles as facilitators and mediators of development. It is important for government agencies to have this linkage so that we can bring to their attention what are the needs of the communities that see themselves as being deprived and being left out in the development process,” he added.
Peace, Reconciliation and Unity
Ariel Hernandez, the co-chair of the Joint Normalization Committee, said one of the keys to attaining just and lasting peace is reconciliation and social healing.
“While we talk about social conditions and how to end the root causes of insurgency, one of the most difficult part of ending any conflict is how to close it. How do we bring the discussion of peace reconciliation and unity? How do we repair the emotions and relationships? The armed conflict may end but many will remain unhealed,” he cited.
He said the POs, NGOs, and COs can come on board to help in local dialogues. The more that we are on the ground, the more we can be of help in pursuing localized peace and unification efforts.
According to him, OPAPRU will also continue to pursue partnership and constituency building with NGOs and POs and church organizations.
BRIDGE to Communities
Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño, NEDA-X Regional Director, said the PO, NGOs, and COs can help in communicating that “the government will try its best to bring services to where it is needed.”
She considered the PO, NGOs, and COs as the BRIDGE of the government to communities and the people.
Addressing the PO, NGOs, and COs representatives during the forum, Cariño said, “We need you to Bring government closer to the people and people closer to the government, Relay to government what the people needs because government cannot be everywhere, Inform the people about their rights, and what the government can do for them, Develop programs and projects for the communities and bring them to the attention of government agencies for funding; Guide the people correctly and Empower them so that they can also determine the kind of development they want to attain.
Meanwhile, Gacal said the support of the civil sector will be the last component that would interlink the three major sectors in the society – the government, private sector, and civil sector – to go full on steam towards ending local communist armed conflict.
In October, a similar forum was conducted by RTF-ELCAC X to elicit the support of the private sector and channel their corporate social responsibility programs into the conflict-affected areas.
“To effectively address the challenges brought upon by the root causes of insurgency, it is evident that the approach to peace and nation-building should go beyond what the military is doing. We cannot move forward without everyone’s help and support,” Gacal added.
In response, the participating POs, NGOs, and COs committed to support RTF-ELCAC in community mobilization and social preparation as well as in the provision of basic services to identified development-ready barangays. (APB/PIA-10)