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Bacolod City, PhilippinesSaturday, June 16, 2012
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with Juan L. Mercado

Beyond 2016

Juan L. Mercado

“Better to jaw-jaw than war-war” is a street demo cry. It also fits the June launch of a $3- million project that would help over 20,000 households, scattered in 21 towns across nine conflict-ridden Mindanao provinces.

This is the latest project launched by the Mindanao Trust Fund -Reconstruction and Development Program. This six-year old $16 million multi-donor facility is co-chaired by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Bangsamoro Development Authority. World Bank funds and administers the project. The European Union as the largest contributor.

Four out of 10 households, in Central Mindanao alone, were uprooted by periodic clashes over the past 12 years, an earlier survey by UN World Food Programme and World Bank found. Respondent families came from Lanao del Sur and Norte, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

In October last year, more people fled clashes between government and MILF units erupted in Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan. Political warlords aggravate conflict. Thirty two journalists were among 57 victims massacred in Maguindanao. S enior members of Ampatuan clan and associates are now being tried.

Five in one families :had to flee two or three times, ”Violent Conflicts and Displacement in Central Mindanao” notes. One in ten evacuated homes up to five times during the period covered by the survey. They’re dubbed “bakwits”. Respondent families came from Lanao del Sur and Norte, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The two Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao – Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur – were savaged by “the highest levels of food insecurity. Recurrent flooding and crop disease exacerbated the stress.

Conflict shattered every key indicator from food security, access to basic services, income poverty to social cohesion, the study found. Return to gutted homes usher in rehabilitation problems.

Maneuvers by armed military and rebel groups were pinpointed as major cause of their displacement by 29 percent of surveyed households. Another 9 percent blamed it on clan conflict or “rido”.

“Peace is the only battle worth waging,” French philosopher and author Albert Camus wrote. Despite high risks, MTF-RDP delivered services, in 2011, to over 31,000 households,.in 2011. These consisted of classrooms, health stations, access roads, water supply systems, and community centers. Coverage expanded from 62 to 162 barangays in 75 towns.

“Initiatives like the MTF-RDP ensure that communities can enjoy the dividends of development and peace, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles. Said. “Gains from this Program show that partnerships among different stakeholders can bring about much good for the communities…”

She also noted the importance of capacity-building for the Bangsamoro Development Agency. “A strengthened BDA is an important building block for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Secretary Deles stressed..

BDA is the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It also oversees relief, rehabilitation and development. “Priority attention is focused on the political settlement of the Mindanao problem,” noted BDA chair Dr. Saffrullah M. Dipatuan.

Human needs, however, can not wait “Projects and programs that will alleviate suffering in conflict-affected areas should be implemented while both parties are earnestly engaged in peace negotiation.” Indeed, “there was never a good war or a bad peace.”

“This new agreement serves as a confidence-building measure among parties in the conflict,” noted World Bank country director Motoo Konishi It will be a vehicle to build capacity among Bangsamoro groups. That capacity will be even more important In a post-peace agreement scenario.

“Global experience suggests that achieving and sustaining peace requires cooperation and collaboration between key stakeholders,” Mr. Konishi added:. “No single party can achieve peace on their own. By bringing the Government and the MILF together, with the support of the international community, the Mindanao Trust Fund is built on the principle of cooperation.”

“Take one peace step at a time --- and repeat it again and again,” is old counsel. That is needed on the political front where government and MILF are still inching forward to reach an agreement.

To look beyond the horizon of 2016 is one essential peace step, said Judge Soliman Santos at an Ateneo de Davao form. Santos area of expertise is the Bangsamoro issue.

Government should ““should not just think of President Benigno Aquino’s administration and what it can do up to 2016 --- when he steps down. Malacanang and it’s negotiators .should think of leaving a more strategic legacy beyond that. “It is the centuries-old Bangsamoro problem that we are solving here, not just its fate under P-Noy.”

The peace panel is “constrained by its mandate to negotiate only within the existing constitutional framework. “It is not allowed to think outside the box to solve the Bangsamoro problem. Is this contrary to the guidance in the Supreme Court decision on the (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.”

What the Supreme Court did not allow was clear, Santos said.: “The panel cannot usurp constituent powers regarding constitutional changes. Nor can it agree to even legislative changes by promising or commitment to the negotiating partner certain changes in the existing legal frameworks.” Thinking beyond the box is vital.

All are agreed, meanwhile, that el respeto al derecho ajeno es las paz. “Respect for the rights of others nurtures peace.*

( Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com )

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