Development is the other name of peace, a former Roman Catholic pope once said.
And now four civil society organizations have joined forces to take that exhortation to the underdeveloped towns and provinces of the sub region of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through a program called “Promoting Political Climate for Stability and Peace (Pro-POLITICS). The program was launched yesterday (April 29) in Zamboanga City under the full participation of the three governors and most mayors of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The fresh effort to encapacitate and motivate the local government executives is spearheaded by the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) as lead proponent, Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA), Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF).
The program will engage the mayors and governors and other political leaders in formulating and implementing policies and strategies that shall foster good and effective governance so as to hasten peace-building in step with the evolving peace process of Mindanao, IAG executive director Atty. Benedicto Bacani said at the launching ceremony held at Garden Orchid Hotel. It will run for three years and is funded by the Australian government.
ZABIDA president Fr. Angel Calvo in his solidarity message said his consortium has been assisting local governments, mainly the barangays in Zamboanga and Basilan, to strengthen development plans and projects as means to achieve social peace for their constituents. Pro-POLITICS, he said, will attempt to interface ZABIDA’s good governance program with its long-running peace advocacies, particularly its support for the peace process and at present the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
PCID, on the other hand, said it will work with ZABIDA in laying the groundwork for the formulation of a new local government code to be enacted by the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government, PCID president Amina Rasul said. We shall particularly consult with religious leaders, women and indigenous peoples in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in their governance issues and concerns, while IAG will take care of similar work in Central Mindanao, she said.
In his message on behalf of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), undersecretary Jose Lorena stressed that “The search for just and lasting peace is not only a legal responsibility but a moral responsibility. It is not only responsibility of government but it is the responsibility of all the people in Mindanao.” He said local governments in the Basulta sub-region have a special role in national economic development because their area is the geographical frontline in the ASEAN market integration that starts next year. The three provinces are closely adjacent to Malaysian and Indonesia, who are also part of the ASEAN economic market bloc.
Lorena said: “I would like just to underscore that the efforts to bring peace in southern Philippines is not just because we are looking at the political side of it. The government recognized also that the region is our gateway to the ASEAN and that for the ASEAN integration, peace in this part of the country is critical. It is critical in the way that we are the first liner with respect to our integration efforts to the other countries of the ASEAN, and therefore, the parameters for good governance and therefore the search for lasting peace must be the primary goal of this government.”
The Pro-POLITICS launch included a forum dubbed as “Politics and Governance for Peace: Opportunities and Challenges”. The mayors and governors discussed their concerns regarding the Bangsamoro Basic Law, particularly its provisions dealing with local governance and their representation in the regional decision-making.
Atty. Bacani said the discussions will enable the IAG to help government to forge future policies and legislations that will strengthen local government administration. (ZABIDA)