DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Thousands of indigenous people and peace advocates from across Mindanao gathered in Davao City on Tuesday, June 28, to show their support for the peace talks that incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has initiated with the Left.
More than 30,000 people came from Caraga, Soccsksargen, Western Mindanao, and the Davao Region – led by progressive groups, such as Gabriela, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Samasa, and local sectoral organizations – calling for “just and lasting peace.”
For locals, lasting peace can only be achieved if the government delivers what people want, and if campaign promises are fulfilled.
“There will be no peace if they will not give what the people want. Because in our lands, the poor are being used, being harassed,” 60-year-old Edith Kano told Rappler in an interview.
Oscar Polikit, who travelled from Bukidnon to Davao City, expressed his high hopes for the peace negotiations with the progressive movements.
“Ang maging solusyon dito ‘yung pagkakaisa kagaya ngayon magkakaisa ang NDFP, ‘yung moro,” said Polikit.
(The solution here is the unity like now [the government] is negotiating with the NDFP and the Moro.)
“‘Yung peace negotitation, iyan ang talagang prioridad nya dito,” he added.
(That peace negotiation, that’s really his priority.)
When asked about the large number of Mindanaoans who went to Davao City, Polikit said this might be their only opportunity to raise their concerns before the administration.
Jesus Dureza, incoming adviser on the peace process, earlier went to Oslo, Norway. to start the peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.
The dialogue between the two parties is expected to resume on the 3rd week of July.
The Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Agenda
Aside from expressing their support for the peace talks, the movement also launched the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Agenda before the the Duterte administration. Incoming labor secretary Silvestre Bello III accepted the peace agenda as the representative of the Duterte administration.
“It’s okay [but] we have to study [this] very carefully because probably they will use this paper [in] negotiation in the peace talks,” said Bello.
The agenda, according to one of the leaders, serves as a recommendation from the progressive groups on what Duterte can work on during the first 100 days of his administration.
Duterte will formally take his oath on Thursday, June 30 at 12:00 noon.
This agenda calls to prioritize several issues that directly affect people in the Southern Philippines such as:
- Implementing a genuine land reform by carrying out the land distribution program
- Assisting farmers in Mindanao in improving agriculture by fully subsidizing one cropping season and scrapping irrigation fees
- Achieving national industrialization for employment to reach the area
- Promoting “ecologically-sound development” by suspending the operations of mining firms in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte that violate the environment
- Respecting the rights of national minorities
Here is a full copy of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Agenda: