Mindanao Peace Caravan Gets Huge Support In Central PhilippinesMarch 15, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
CEBU CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 15, 2008) – Peace advocates have welcomed the Mindanao Peace Caravan as it crossed from the southern to the Visayas en route to Luzon.
The caravan was recently in Cebu where locals have pledged support to the efforts and peace campaign of the caravan, made up of different stake holders in the South whose aim is to foster unity in the land. While in Cebu, the caravan also held a forum participated by different non-government organizations and civil society groups and supporters.
Lito Vasquez, chairman of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, the leading organizer of a series of activities here to welcome the peace caravan, said the forum “has helped a lot in raising the awareness of Cebuanos, especially on the need to resolve the long-drawn conflict in Mindanao.
Cebuano is term referring to the residents of Cebu province in the Visayan region in central Philippines.
After hearing speakers from Mindanao led by Oblate priest Roberto Layson, Vasquez said: “We realized that our local officials were wrong in saying we shouldn’t mind the things happening in Mindanao – what is important is the stable peace and order that we have in the Visayas.”
“We realized that everything that have happened in Mindanao are really affecting us in the Visayas not only because many Visayans are in Mindanao and some Mindanaoans are in Visayas, but more because of the fact that if the economy slows down in Mindanao, it also has some effects in Visayas’ economy,” he added.
Layson, also co-chairman of the Mindanao Peace Caravan, urged Filipinos to unite for peace. “The problem in Mindanao is also the problem of the country and peace for Mindanao is also peace for this country,” he said in the forum.
The priest said that he experienced four wars in Mindanao and had seen many children suffered and died at evacuation centers.
“Kung kailangan naming lumuhod para supurtahan kami sa aming peace struggle, gagawin naming. (If we need to kneel and beg for the people to support this cause, then we will beg),” the priest said. “We have traveled so far in places where we have not gone before only to ask you to help us knock on the doors of Malacanang for them to listen to us and the youths.”
The caravan started in five major cities in Mindanao on March 13 and is heading to Corregidor island in Luzon. It is joined by peace advocates from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur. Others came from the cities of Davao, Kidapawan, Cotabato, Zamboanga and Tagum.
Memen Lauzon, of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, co-organizer of the peace caravan, also appealed to Manila to pursue the peace talks with Muslim rebels in Mindanao after negotiations stalled in December last year.
“The impasse in the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has made many peace-loving Filipinos very weary of the possibility of another war. That is why we are appealing the government to immediately sign an accord with the MILF and also deliver its commitment in the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.”
The MNLF has forged a peace agreement with the government in 1996, but it accused Manila of reneging to its commitment. Under the peace agreement, Manila is to provide livelihood and job opportunities to thousands of former rebels.
Anwar Opahm, spokesperson of the United Youth for Peace and Development, said many youths have joined the caravan for the sole quest of peace and unity in Mindanao and the rest of the country.
“Mindanao is not only faced with natural disaster but disasters brought about by the war that killed many people,” Opahm said. (Candido Aparece, Jr.)