Solidarity conference ends with declaration supporting the GRP-MILF peace talks

MANILA—As an expression of its unwavering commitment to the peace process in the south, the first ever National Solidarity Conference on Mindanao capped with a Declaration of United Action for a Political Negotiated Settlement in the GRP-MILF Talks which urged both parties to consider the eleven (11) action points which conference delegates identified on Friday at the University of the Philippines.

The declaration was presented to Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, who earlier met the Mindanao delegation at the beginning of the peace lobby mission organized by the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) and the Mindanao Solidarity Network (MSN).
“A negotiated political settlement that will be crafted by the peace panels must be categorical and couched in clear terms and must not leave anything for future interpretations and debates.  It must address the legitimate claim of the Bangsamoro people over their ancestral domain which includes delineation of their political jurisdiction, sharing of resources and self-governance,” the declaration states.

It added that a negotiated political settlement “must clearly define what will be the political arrangement between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro people with a clear blue print on the form of government that will be implemented in the Bangsamoro homeland.  Such blueprint should also specify how the rights of the indigenous peoples and the settlers will be protected and how the powers will be allocated and shared among the various tribes within the Bangsamoro nation in  accordance with geographic and cultural realities prevailing therein.”

In accepting the declaration, Quintos-Deles said she considers the major action points as she sees no contradiction in the Philippine government’s current peace priorities with that of the conference’s recommendations. “This is the reason why we encourage civil society participation in the peace process to ensure transparency and wider ownership of whatever agreement the government and the MILF will enter.”

The declaration lists several proposals which seeks to “enflesh the spirit of the current of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations,” Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi said.

“We commit to cooperate with one another and with the Philippine government and the MILF, the  peace panels, the international community and all stakeholders in Mindanao to undertake these actions,” Suganob added.

Among others, the action points include:

– Institutionalize a consultative and information dissemination mechanism from the Provincial down to the barangays of local government units, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),  in order to keep the people duly informed on the issues  and proposals exchanged in the negotiating table. This can be jointly implemented by the DILG and OPAPP in tandem with peace networks and CSOs operating in the area. The peace talks should include the local government units and should create a sub-panel that will focus on talking with problematic LGUs and politicians;

– Encourage the Catholics and Protestant denominations to offer their respective churches and parishes and their mass media as conduits for information dissemination and updates about the peace process and education about Mindanao history.  Consciously engage and involve the religious leaders;

–   Assist the indigenous peoples in unifying their agenda and in establishing their own panel representing the seven (7) ethnographic regions that will put forward the IP issues vis-à-vis government, MNLF, MILF, NDF, and other armed groups;

– Develop a comprehensive communications plan that will effectively raise the consciousness of people about the peace talks and deepen their understanding about the identities, cultures, struggles and historical narratives of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples;

– Set-up a Mindanao Press Forum as a platform where grassroots communities can talk about their issues rather than rely on mainstream media;

– Influence the Mindanao legislators to support the peace talks and develop a direct link between Congress and the peace panels; conduct a survey on the position of the lawmakers with regard to the peace talks;

– Organize high level briefings for the Senate, Supreme Court and Legislators on the experience of other countries in resolving their own internal conflicts and tap international experts for this purpose;

– Rewrite history and give due recognition on the narratives of the Bangsamoro and the indigenous peoples; conduct school-to-school campaign, forums and symposium to popularize the peace process;

– Lead in consolidating the results of the various consultations and translate them into digestible materials as inputs to the peace panels;

– Translate signed agreements into various languages and dialects and develop them into popular materials (posters, stickers, billboards, facebook, twitter)  for wider dissemination; and

– Suspend the continuing aggression and encroachment of mining corporations and government projects into the ancestral domain areas such as the Pulangi dam project and others.

The declaration was signed by the more than 100 participants. (Rick R. Flores)

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