Peace advocates meet in Lamitan

“Five years ago, Lamitan embraced the limelight nationally and abroad because of the infamous Lamitan siege. The incident made people think that Lamitan is a war zone,” said Roderick H. Furigay, mayor of Lamitan municipality.

“That infamous event is not the welcomed pleasure of Lamitan. We are peace loving people,” he declared during the opening program today at Datu Rizal Cultural Center.

“We are native Yakans, Tausaug, Maranao, Bisaya, Ilocano and Tagalong and homegrown Chabacano. We co-exist peacefully. We are determined to prove to the whole world that Lamitan is a peaceful place to stay in. You can check it yourself. You can go around the streets,” he stressed.

“You may say that it is more peaceful in Lamitan than in Manila. Feel the warmth of the hospitality of the Lamitianos, ” he added.

“I also believe that there is peace in Lamitan than in Manila and in Malacanang. There is peace and contentment in Lamitan than in Forbes Park, “ former Vice President Teofisto Guingona said.

“There is no reason that this peace summit will not result to a lasting peace,” he said.

Guingona, who was the keynote speaker, shared the historical context of the nationalist movement of the Moro people and related it to the ongoing peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Both the government and the MILF have invested substantial time and resources to attain meaningful peace. Does there exist grave reasons to now change course?” Guingona asked.

“The persecutions and hostilities under martial law and the wars of 2000 have long been gone, and both parties now face each other with clearer perspectives. There exist more reasons for us to have unity in diversity with peace than differences that divide us,” he stressed.

“The barriers to peace, such as the borders and differences over certain areas, can be overcome—just as there are new political units, provinces and cities organized,” he added.

Guingona also said that the 4th Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Summit that will end on December 17th, is proof that we (have) learned to live in peace and that together we can ensure food, freedom, jobs and justice.”

Participants of this eight-day journey for peace arrived in Lamitan at 12 noon today through Aleson Shipping Lines.

Multi-ethnic leaders and representatives from NGOs and international NGOs who joined the journey delivered speeches of support while on board the ship.

They prayed together before disembarking and waved peace signs as municipal authorities welcomed them at Lamitan port.

Evening of December 11, participants had a forum on human rights and peace at Western Mindanao State University gymnasium.

Sister Arnold Noel, a human rights advocate, called for the continued investigation of human rights violations against farmer and labor leaders, journalists and civilians.

The forum was also graced by Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lorenzo Lobregat and lawyer Jose Manuel Mamauag of the Commission on Human Rights-Region IX.

Some participants also asked CHR on what happened to the investigation of the Lamitan siege in June 2001 when the Sipadan hostage-takers managed to slip through what was supposed to be a dragnet.

At night, a number of the delegates pitched tents at the Zamboanga City sports complex while others who brought sleeping mats, slept on bleachers.

Outside the venue of the Peace Summit here, entrepreneurs set up stalls selling colorful native bags, headdresses and clothes.

The Touch Mobile company also shared its big red tents for Police Assistance Center.

On December 13, there will be a forum on the Insights and Hindsight from the Architects of 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement. On December 14, another forum will be held, on the Right to Self-Determination of Peoples from the Perspectives of the United Nations.
A forum on Democratic Political Options for Peace in Mindanao and Sulu Overall Lecture on Peace and the Millenium Development Goals will be done on the 15th of December. There will be workshops in the afternoon.

Participants hope to achieve a Summit Declaration on December 16th.