ZAMBOANGA CITY -- An unprecedented effort to bring together major stakeholders of the peace process in a no-holds-barred open discussion has been realized following a forum held here yesterday with top executive officials of local government units from the island provinces of ARMM in attendance.


The peace forum capped off the launching of the project Promoting Political Stability and Climate for Peace (Pro PolitiCS for Peace) in the Bangsamoro, a collaboration of Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) – the lead implementer, Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), and Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). The Australian Government, which funds the project, was represented by embassy officials led by David Dutton, deputy head of mission of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines.


The project which will run for three years will consist of learning sessions, policy discussions to translate local aspirations and strategies into public policies, and interfacing of local government units and political leaders with peace process structures and mechanisms, IAG executive director and Pro PolitiCS for Peace project director Benedicto Bacani said. Bacani added that the project will also ensure participation of women, youth, indigenous peoples, and religious leaders.


“The project will serve as a forum where political leaders reflect on and articulate their informed perspectives on issues of autonomy, peace and security,” Bacani said, noting that the project organizers recognize the fundamental role of political leaders in the development of an environment conducive to the growth of autonomy as a means to sustainable peace and development. The project will help key sectors, particularly local government units in the ARMM, articulate their views and positions in relation to the evolving regional autonomy.


The panel in Zamboanga City was composed of DILG-ARMM Secretary Anwar Malang, Comm. Abdullah Camlian of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Jose Lorena, political analyst Malou Tiquia, OPAPP legal counsel Al-Amin Julkipli, Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan, Basilan Governor Jum Akbar, and Tawi-tawi Governor Nurbert Sahali.


Zamboanga City Vice-Mayor Cesar Iturralde, who represented City Mayor Maria Isabel “Beng” Climaco-Salazar, welcomed the project organizers and participants and reiterated the city government’s support to the peace process. PCID Chair Amina Rasul moderated the panel discussion. LOGODEF Executive Director Edmund Tayao provided the closing remarks.


Six talking points emerged from the panel discussion. Sulu Vice Governor Tan called on the peace panels to clarify the proposed creation of regional waters; appointment of the Wali; inclusion of different ethnic groups such as the Tausugs in Sulu, Maranaos in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanaons in Maguindanao, Samals in Tawi-tawi, and the Yakans in Basilan; powers and privileges of local government units within the Bangsamoro; election of local officials under the Bangsamoro government and their relationship with the regional government; and, the Philippine claim to Sabah.


“We in Sulu support the passage of a law that will restore our dignity as a people, honor the struggles of our forebears and guarantees the fact that Muslims are Filipinos, too,” Vice Governor Tan stressed.


Another launching activity of the project will be held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City on May 10, 2015 for the mainland ARMM covering the areas of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Marawi City. The event will feature another round of the forum themed “Politics and Governance for Peace: Opportunities and Challenges”. - with Pro PolitiCS for Peace in Zamboanga