Deles vows to continue search for peace in Mindanao under Pres. Aquino’s watch PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 January 2012 16:37

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has told an international forum held in Malaysia that the Philippines will continue to persevere in its quest for peace to end the decades-old armed conflict in southern Philippines.

“We will continue to reach out to a larger audience to explain until we are blue in the face that there is another way of resolving issues other than by force of arms,” Deles said in a speech at the regional forum dubbed “Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao” (COP) at the University Sains Malaysia (REPUSM) in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia last Tuesday.

The forum was organized by the Research and Education for Peace, REPUSM, Japan International Cooperation Agency and Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network.

Peace agreement before 2013

Deles said the Aquino administration has the “intense desire to have a signed agreement (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF) as soon as possible, hopefully, before 2013 or the midterm,” otherwise “we will run out of time for properly implementing what we have signed,” she added.

She reiterated that the government is committed to end all armed conflicts to ensure a firm start of the implementation of signed peace agreements within the President’s term.

“Peace talks with the MILF is back on track, with both parties having been able to explain their positions, exploring road maps, and remaining open and hopeful that shared, lasting solutions can be found.”

She said the 24th exploratory talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF had just been held in Kuala Lumpur on January 9-11.

The peace process is proceeding with “tempered optimism,” Deles said.

However, Deles cited realities that “despite best efforts from both sides of the table, some things can still be hard to predict, some things can still go wrong, and the process will continue to be interrogated and questioned as the season will get even more political as the midterm election approaches.”
Resolve for peace

In the midst of difficulties, “we will persevere because we know that status quo (of the existing armed conflicts) is not an option,” she said.

“The bottom line is that ending all internal armed conflicts in the country will not be easy, but it is something that we will not let go,” she said.

“We will continue to reach out to a larger audience to explain until we are blue in the face that there is another way of resolving issues other than by force of arms.”

The COP regional forum is a mechanism to gather stakeholders to discuss issues surrounding challenges on peace in the Southeast Asian region. Now on its fifth year, it has given focus on the Mindanao armed conflict, particularly on strengthening the ongoing peace process between the GPH and the MILF.

Deles expressed the hope that the ongoing peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF will result in a just and lasting peace in the troubled south.

“We will continue to toil in the search for peace,” she stressed.

Deles said the prospects for peace in 2012 “have never been this good,” pointing to the steadfast political leadership and supportive political climate of the Aquino administration which makes the peace and development agenda in Mindanao a priority.

“Certainly, peace in Mindanao is the primary focus of President Aquino’s agenda,” she added.

Stakeholders aboard
Deles expounded in her message the contexts and challenges of the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.
“What happens in the peace table does not happen in a vacuum” and that the peace process “can be extremely vulnerable to the politics in the country,” she said.

“Given this context, the peace process will need the vast support of people and a constituency. It is naïve to think that one can work for peace advocacy without engaging the political arena,” she said.

Deles also said that “OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) has reached out to different groups laying claim to represent the Bangsamoro and citizens on the firm belief that all stakeholders must be on board, their welfare taken into account, and equal protection and opportunity be made available to all.”

Present at the forum were Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF peace panels, governors of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and representatives of Bangsamoro civil society groups.

Robredo said the Aquino administration is getting local governments to participate in enhancing accountability and transparency in ARMM to ensure that peace and development will take place.

He said President Benigno S. Aquino III has approved the P8.6-billion stimulus fund for ARMM.

“We are trying to find ways of using every centavo of that stimulus fund to benefit as many women and children in Mindanao as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the civil society will be given the authority to monitor how the budget will be spent.

“Why are we in a hurry? Not only to send the signal that we are serious about peace and development in this region, but mainly because the people who have already bore their share of suffering cannot afford to wait,” Robredo said.