Mindanaoan youth: 'We want just and lasting peace'
MANILA, Philippines – "We, the Mindanaoan youth, are committed to the protection from and prevention of conflict and violence."
In a bid for self-empowerment, youth leaders from Mindanao delivered a manifesto calling for just and lasting peace during the celebration of International Youth Day (IYD) on Saturday, August 12, in Iligan City.
The youth leaders described their home, Mindanao, as "an island that knows conflict unlike any other."
They said they want to turn this picture around, and they also want to be part of the process to make this peace happen.
"The youth must not be seen as passive victims, rather as active participants in the midst of conflict and crisis. Only then can we be meaningful partners in finding solutions and realizing our nation’s pursuit for peace," they said. (READ: The youth's role in the Bangsamoro and nation-building)
It was a strong statement amid the ongoing conflict between government troops and the Maute Group in nearby Marawi City. As of August 9, at least 78,466 families or 359,680 have been displaced by the clashes, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Beyond this, the youth also recognized how the decades-long conflict in Mindanao has hampered progress and development in the island where many of the Philippines' poorest live.
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 45.2% of children in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are stunted. This is significantly higher than the national average of 33.4%. In terms of education, ARMM’s functional literacy rate is estimated at 72.1%, the lowest in the Philippines.
This is the dire picture that the young Mindanaoans want to change. But they know they cannot do this on their own.
"We urge the national and local governments to regularly allocate sufficient funds and resources for programs and policies affecting young people to ensure sustainable youth development," they said.
The manifesto was collectively written by 50 young Mindanaoans ahead of the celebration on Saturday. (READ: Development under Duterte: Why he can’t fail the Mindanaoan youth)
During the celebration, the young Mindanaoans also participated in the formation of a human peace symbol, sending a message that despite the conflicts they experience in their region, they continue to stand for peace in their homeland.
With this year's theme "Youth Bringing Peace," the National Youth Commission (NYC) spearheaded the celebration of IYD, with 3 simultaneous events in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The main celebration happened in Iligan City, led by NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra and Commissioner James Ventura. The celebration was in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office on Bangsamoro Youth of the ARMM, and the Iligan city government.
In Iligan City, Social Welfare Undersecretary Hope Hervilla also encouraged the youth to actively be involved in nation-building activities.
The Luzon event, meanwhile, was held at the Ayala Malls South Park in Muntinlupa City. Headed by NYC Commissioners Paul Anthony Pangilinan and Percival Cendaña, it was dubbed the "IYD 2017: Love, Peace, and Music" celebration.
For the Visayas leg, NYC Commissioner Rhea Peñaflor led the IYD celebration in Iloilo City. – Rappler.com