Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
At the recent 24th Mindanao Business Conference (Minbizcon) in Dipolog City, peace became a topic front and center instead of just investments and business opportunities. And all because of a mix up in schedules.
A top honcho in the cabinet was supposed to be the opening speaker. Apparently his schedule would not fit so he was moved as closing speaker on the second day. The new keynote speaker did not also make it at the opening. This left a vacuum needed to be filled up asap.
Enter retired Lt. Gen. Jimmy delos Santos, former Army Chief and head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor. He was supposed to be a Reactor on the second day’s discussion on the Mindanao Peace Process. Businessman and former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, who is a member of the government’s panel dealing with the MILF, was scheduled as the presentor. Bacani was himself replaced at the last moment by someone else.
From Reactor, delos Santos became sort of the Main Speaker at the opening rites after the welcome remarks of Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Tan and Ramon Escueta representing the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI).
Delos Santos, who teaches at UP, went on to deliver his message, he termed as “lecture” at the end. He presented the current peace and order situation and called on the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the country, not just on the Moro rebellion. He said achieving peace is a necessary step in our efforts integrating the country within the ASEAN economic community, which was the theme of the conference.
His presentation was welcome news to many delegates from all over Mindanao as the region suffers from conflict not only on the Bangsamoro areas but as well as in areas operated by the New People’s Army. The conflict has left many areas undeveloped, many business opportunities lost, and many fell victims to violence. Of note, for instance, was the recent burning of eight heavy equipment in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.
Indeed, equal attention should be given to the other tract in pursuing the peace process. I think it was a mistake of putting all our eggs in just one basket in the peace process, concentrating only on the MILF tract and paying little or no attention at all on the NDF side.
Achieving peace on the other tract may have even proved to be easier. First, the NDF is not asking for their own autonomous territory, an element of a state, which sparked speculations of separation from the republic by our Bangsamoro brothers, and Second, there will be no need for the formulation of a basic law, now the contentious issue stalling the MILF talks.
If we must pursue inclusive peace, we must therefore involve all stakeholders, on the one hand, and deal with all armed insurgents, on the other, and not just with one that government may like to negotiate with muna and ignore the others. Government must realize that “exclusive” attitudes do not augur well to peacebuilding. It, on the other hand, breeds and induces bias and prejudice, which sets off conflicts.
If not for the delos Santos presentation, little attention would have been given to this equally important tract during the conference.
Many delegates were happy to learn during the Minbizcon that the business sector in eastern Mindanao, in Davao and Caraga Regions in particular, have been involved in the peace-constituency building program pushing for the NDF peace talks.
While this particular negotiation is currently stalled, pursuing it apart from the MILF is no doubt important. Senator Loren Legarda made a similar call on this issue too when the BBL was discussed at the Senate recently. We all know that peace is vital in our push for economic development and to address rural poverty and underdevelopment, which are some of the causes of insurgency.
Kudos to Davao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Antonio dela Cruz who told the conference about the peacebuillding efforts being done by the business sector here in partnership with International Alert, a peacebuillding NGO based in London with offices in Manila and Davao.
This constituency building program has an apt message – Peace is everyone’s business. Peace is good for business. Peace is good business. Business leaders must be peacebuilders!
I fully agree. No need for me to figure this one out.