ZAMBOANGA CITY – INTERNATIONAL democracy and peace advocates have called on both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to continue talking peace despite the obstacles that have incessantly plagued the decade-old peace negotiations.
“We are still optimistic that peace is possible in Mindanao. We are hopeful that both parties will uphold to the process,” said Dr. Paul Scott, member of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) during a consultation with Zamboanga-based civil society groups last August 24 at La Viña Hotel, this city.
The consultation was part of WFDA’s weeklong solidarity peace mission to Mindanao. Scott said the mission was WFDA’s show of solidarity with the people of the region, particularly the civil society groups, amid the issues and hostilities that plague the island since the recent weeks.
“I think this mission is timely enough for us in the international civil society groups. We also hope to find solutions that can contribute to peace in this island,” he said.
The WFDA team was in the country until August 29. The group is a 10-man team composed of advocates and civil society groups from Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, United States, Spain and Germany.
“We want to tell the people of Mindanao that you are not alone in quest for peace, that we are here readily willing to extend any possible assistance we can,” added Scott, who is also a member of the 11-man steering committee of the Alliance for Reform and Democratization in Asia (ARDA).
He said their mission would gather a clear and comprehensive picture of the situation in this southern part of the country. “We would be ultimately making our report that will hopefully help everybody understand Mindanao peace,” he added.
Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), also noted the importance of the consultation with the international group, as he also called for other stakeholders to take an active part in the process. “As people of Mindanao, we play a very vital role and we should also have our own contribution to attain peace in Mindanao,” he told the group.
Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan of the Davao-based Institute for International Dialogue (IID), the host of mission, said the group was subdivided into two teams. “We have this group for Western Mindanao and other team in Central Mindanao,” she told PeaceWorks.
Besides meeting with civil society groups, Gatmaytan added the mission would be meeting local officials, police and military forces, both the government and MILF panels, and other officials in Manila.
She said after Zamboanga City, their team was to proceed to Jolo, Sulu for similar consultations. The group was also visiting other areas in Autonomous Muslim region to assess the recently concluded regional elections.
Meanwhile, other civil society groups in the country had also been urging for both parties and stakeholders to continue the peace process in Mindanao. Among them are Mindanao People’s Peace Movement, the bigger Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW) and the Zamboanga-based Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP).