More funding to push peace-building efforts

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity will be needing more funding to effectively and continually push its peace -building initiatives, particularly the decommissioning process of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to a solon.

OPAPRU on Monday said the House of Representatives vowed to support its increased 2023 proposed budget in lieu of the “continuing peace efforts that have significantly contributed to the decrease of armed conflicts and atrocities in the countryside.”

Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, the vicechairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations who sponsored OPAPRU’s budget, said out of the proposed P4 billion fund, only P1.891 billion was approved.

“More or less, if not increased, this could affect the decommissioning process,” she added. “This leaves an unfunded variance of P2.2 billion for programs across the different peace tables.”

Despite its “limited fiscal space,” OPAPRU said it prioritizes the most urgent programs such as carrying out the continuing decommissioning process, supporting Government-MILF joint peacekeeping teams, local dispute settlement mechanisms, peace education, amnesty program, primary mechanisms to resolve governance and resource-sharing issues between national Government and the BARMM, as well as facilitation of the implementation of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation roadmap.

Meanwhile, Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano said the OPAPRU’s efforts on normalization and transformation programs including confidence-building activities, various socio-economic assistance, and development projects for transitioning rebels, their families, and communities were among the reasons why there is a decline of violent incidents along the conflict -affected areas in the country.

Paduano cited himself as the former national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade and a rejectionist group of the communist movement that now serves as an active peace partner of the national government.

“I, myself, am a product of the peace agreements and among other beneficiaries of the peace processes in the past. Thus, I strongly believe that the components led by the OPAPRU are essential in strengthening the campaign towards peace,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mujiv Hataman of the lone district of Basilan province lauded OPAPRU for playing a key role in reuniting the country’s leading Moro fronts.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to OPAPRU for bringing together the (leaders) of the different rebel groups who were not on good terms before. Now, they are part of the leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, through the initiative of the present leadership of the OPAPRU,” he said.

OPAPRU is currently facilitating the third phase of decommissioning process for 19,345 MILF members, included in the major components of the Normalization Program under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro — which aims to transform former combatants and their families into peaceful and productive citizens.

It is also gearing up for the rollout of a Transformation Program for Moro National Liberation Front members that seeks to provide socio-economic assistance package to beneficiaries and their next-of-kin.

OPAPRU added it implements a similar normalization program for members of the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/ Alex Boncayao Brigade — Tabara Paduano Group, which primarily aims to help former rebels to reintegrate themselves into mainstream society.

Aside from the facilitation of former combatants, OPAPRU also pushes various socioeconomic projects within the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, through its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan Program.

These include the provision of farm-to-market roads, agricultural infrastructure, water projects, and livelihood assistance to the beneficiaries and their community.

OPAPRU’s Social Healing and Peacebuilding Office, meanwhile, promotes a culture of peace, mutual understanding, and solidarity among victims of armed conflict.

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the strong support from the legislators serves as a “testament of their steadfast commitment to sustaining the gains of the comprehensive Philippine peace process.”

“Under the Marcos Administration’s banner of unity, OPAPRU shall continue to carry out peacebuilding interventions so we can effectively address the drivers of conflict, and bring a just and lasting peace to all Filipinos,” he added.

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