Bishop de la Pena was with leaders who welcomed partners of civil society and media practitioners from Iligan City who held a peace caravan from Iligan to Marawi to Ramain and Baloi town at the opening of Mindanao Week of Peace 2007 last Thursday.
Balloon-and-flaglet-festooned vehicles also had Mindanao Week Of Peace streamers displayed.
The group gathered for program at the Dimaporo gymnasium at the Mindanao State University in Marawi which university president Dr. Ricardo de Leon, a retired general, said is a “developing university of peace with a crusade for the peace of hearts of the people and for global peace.”
Paul Jones, deputy chief of mission of United States embassy in Manila, who graced the occasion, said, “we are proud that we are celebrating the peace process in Mindanao.”
Jones said they have “committed P7 billion pesos for the next five years to open the economic opportunities for people by helping former combatants become farmers, fishers, fruits and vegetable growers.”
“But why make a large investment for Mindanao? Because we’re optimistic that Mindanao will be peaceful,” he added.
Jones said he is supportive of the peace process and hopes “for the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations of the government and the MILF.”
Billy dela Rosa, head of the VSO Peace Mindanao based in Iligan City said the pressures from civil society prevented the collapse of the peace talks.
Suharto Abas of the UNMDP-Act for Peace observed that the participants of the program represent various generations.
“This serves as a transition to transfer the advocacies of the adults to the younger generations,” he said.
After they freed doves last Thursday, multisectoral groups inked a Peace Covenant as an expression of their collective commitment to:
– strive for peace to reign in Lanao areas and in Mindanao as a whole through continuous transformation and development of individuals, organizations and institutions
– promote the building of peace at every level, in ways possible for us, as constituents of Lanao and part of Mindanao, firmly and deeply believing that peace-building is the task of every person, organization and institution; that the leaders of our respective organization/institution have a role to play in educating for and promoting peace; and, that peace is the fruit of the meaningful engagement, partnership and dialogue between and among all sectors, groups and peoples;
– allocate resources in support to continuing peace building activities, as necessary, in accordance with the law and the mandates of our respective organizations/institutions;
– cause the establishment of necessary mechanisms and structures that will support at the same time enhance the gains of peace-building in Lanao and the whole of Mindanao;
– endeavor to continue and upscale, in the years to come, all our efforts towards a wider and more coordinated actions of peace in Mindanao by learning, sharing and building on this historic celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace 2007.
The Covenant was signed by leaders from the academe, city and provincial officers, civil society and representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The signing was witnessed by representatives from the US Embassy, International Monitoring Team (IMT) from Malaysia, and students of MSU.
On Friday, the League of City Mayors had another peace caravan from Cagayan de Oro City to Marawi City, to enhance relations.
Iligan City mayor Lawrence Cruz, chair of the Mayors’ League in Region X, said they came up with a memorandum of agreement to support marginal cities and towns.
At 3 p.m., they distributed 250 free eyeglasses for the indigents of the city; four wheeled chairs for deserving elders and some relief goods for the victims of the recent flash floods. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)