Pichay vows support for Sports for Peace Mindanao

In a press conference, Pichay, who heads two sports governing bodies in the country, said he will support the activities of the Sports for Peace as a "Mindanaon who has long been dreaming of peace in Mindanao".

"It's a good program,” the ex-lawmaker said of the activities undertaken by the group chaired by former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair William Ramirez.

The sportsman-businessman, who is the president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and Philippine Surfing Association, shared optimism with sports leaders across the island that sports could be a tool in attaining sustainable peace and promoting Mindanao as a land of prosperity.

Sports for Peace Mindanao has calendared a series of sporting events this year that will culminate with the rebirth of the Mindanao Friendship Games, a multi-sport events among the local government units in the island, in December.

The event had sent a strong message of peace in the region in 2001, 2002 and 2003 but was scrapped in the calendar of the PSC in 2004 reportedly due to funding shortage.

It was launched in Tubod, Lanao del Norte in 2001, a year after the "all-out war" against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) erupted in the municipality of Kauswagan of the same province. The war eventually spread to other parts of the island where there was MILF presence.

"We have not achieved permanent peace in the island due to continuous military operations and negotiations and we believe we can make it in sports,” said Pichay.

Pichay was the guest of honor of the three-day silver jubilee celebration of Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla that was highlighted with a sports leadership training and sports clinic at the St. Francis Xavier Seminary here.

He pointed out that other war-torn countries had observed ceasefires during sporting events like the holding of the Olympics in their areas and said "it's not impossible here in Mindanao".

"What makes sport a better one is that it can put us together in one place and play without differences in religion and race," said Pichay, adding, "If we achieve peace in Mindanao, it would provide more opportunities for our people for a better life."

He said he would raise funds in Manila to help the programs of the Sports for Peace Mindanao.

"I’m very grateful to the support (of Pichay), " said Ramirez. "It's a big help. With his support and those who pledged to support us, we can now run the programs of the Sports for Peace Mindanao,” he added.

Ramirez is planning to travel to various places in the island including war-torn areas to conduct sports leadership trainings and sports clinics for the "children of Mindanao" as part of the year-long activities of the Sports for Peace Mindanao.

Late last year, Ramirez and coaches in various sports disciplines conducted leadership training and sports clinic in Midsayap, North Cotabato that benefited internally displaced children. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)