PAMANA: A Complementary Track to Just and Lasting Peace

Wednesday, June 8, 2016 - 07:00

Delivered at the OPAPP Forum on PAMANA, held at the Astoria Plaza Hotel, Pasig City
By Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
8 June 2016

More than five years ago, as our efforts to restart the various peace tables under our watch at OPAPP began to gain steam, the Aquino Administration recognized that a negotiated political settlement will ultimately fail to lay down lasting foundations for a just and durable peace without strong, accompanying efforts to address the root causes of injustice, insecurity, and conflict on the ground.  Given this, and keeping in mind the government’s commitment to peace-building that is truly inclusive and participatory, we saw the need to implement a development program that is tailor-fit for conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable communities – a program that would ensure that the plight of these communities will be properly addressed through concrete interventions that complement or sometimes supplement the formal peace negotiations that the government and rebel groups undertake on the peace table.

The program we envisioned is also in keeping with the vow President Aquino made when he took office, when he said during his inaugural address: walang maiiwan.  As we seek a more peaceful and more prosperous nation, no one will be left behind.  This is what President Aquino decreed, this is what underpins both his social contract with the Filipino people and the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, and this is what we sought to do at OPAPP: no one, especially the victims of conflict, will be left behind.

It is hard enough for those caught in the crossfire between armed rebels and government forces to sustain decent livelihoods to feed their families.  In the unspeakably hostile and volatile environment of a conflict-affected area, it is unimaginable for them to attain their aspirations in life.  Simply put, lives do not prosper and dreams do not thrive in grounds and fields made barren by war and violence.

And so in 2011 the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn or PAMANA Program was conceived.  PAMANA, at its very core, aims to build the resilience of conflict-affected communities, and, by doing so, help break the cycle of violence by improving the delivery of basic social services – basic services that those who have not stepped into war-torn communities might easily take for granted – to our people who have suffered under the ravages of armed conflict for so long.  While development programs cannot and must not ever substitute for peace negotiations, we cannot make communities and families who have borne the brunt of the violence all these years wait while we move to resolve conflict. 

The pertinent national line agencies and local government units took on this challenge and converged to achieve specific goals: to reduce the risk of conflict on the ground and stop the perpetuation of armed struggle through a peace and development program.

To ensure that the peace negotiations will be properly complemented, seven PAMANA peace zones were identified in areas covered by the peace tables, with development projects strategically designed depending on the nature of each table.

For the Closure Tables – namely, the peace tables with the Cordillera Bodong Administration/Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, or CBA/CPLA, and with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade or RPMP/RPA/ABB – PAMANA serves as a delivery mechanism for peace and development interventions which are targeted to transform lingering armed formations into potent but unarmed socio-economic and political citizens’ organizations in the Cordillera and the Negros-Panay regions, respectively.

Building largely on PAMANA infrastructure and livelihood projects and AFP’s integration program for former rebels or their kin, the closure process with the CBA/CPLA reaches completion as we end our term of office.  Last year, the Cordillera Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Council, or RLECC, which is under the Regional Peace and Order Council, or RPOC, declared that that the CPLA no longer exists.  In its place, the Cordillera People’s Development Forum, composed of people’s organizations and cooperatives, has been registered with the Security and Exchange Commission.

As well, while we have yet to sign the Closure Agreement with the RPMP/RPA/ABB, PAMANA has assisted in the institutional transformation of this NPA splinter group into an unarmed socio-economic organization that promotes the welfare of its members and its host communities, and its party-list, Abang Lingkod, will serve its second term in the 17th  Congress.  We have received the assurance of the incoming OPAPP leadership that this closure table will be upheld; the wherewithal for the completion of this process is included in our proposed 2017 budget.  This will mean that, by 2017, the country will be two armies less: no more CPLA, no more RPA.

For the peace table with the Moro National Liberation Front, or the MNLF, the focus was on fulfilling the due diligence on the socio-economic component of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, as well as a confidence-building measure to support the community security management interventions in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  Under this program, an MNLF community in Lanao del Norte has turned over its high-powered and crew-served weapons for decommissioning, and more are expected to follow in the Zamboanga peninsula and the island provinces.

Although PAMANA is not implemented to directly complement the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or the MILF, as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, or the CAB, has outlined a comprehensive normalization process including massive and targeted socio-economic interventions matching the achievements in the political track, components of PAMANA have been tapped to contribute to this particular peace table by building the capacities of local governments in the autonomous region in delivering development programs and basic services. The Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the interim program set up right the after of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, builds on elements of PAMANA.

Lastly, as you may know, peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front, or CPP/NPA/NDF, have officially been at an impasse since 2011, despite several failed attempts to overcome the impasse up to late last year.  The function of PAMANA in areas affected by the communist insurgency has thus been focused on making the government’s presence felt on the ground by bringing development interventions to areas which, for too many years, have not been accessed by government.  Three conflict zones have been designated under this peace track: the CARAGA-ComVal-Davao corridor in northeastern Mindanao, Samar Island in the Visayas, and the Bicol-Quezon-Mindoro corridor in southern Luzon.

In the last five years of implementing the PAMANA program, we have already received reports, and possibly even read or heard  the news in mass media, of the physical accomplishments of the program.  Just to cite a few examples: PAMANA paved the way for farm-to-market roads in agricultural communities, constructed multi-purpose peace centers, and brought clean and potable water to deprived areas, among others.  An expanded whole-of-nation initiative, building on PAMANA efforts, has brought multi-agency service caravans into remote communities at the very heart of the insurgency.  Yet, even a full listing of these projects cannot do justice to the impact the program has made for families and communities in conflict areas, many of which are only seeing the government’s presence and benefiting from its services for the first time.

And, with the positive changes that PAMANA has managed to bring to conflict areas, it important that we duly recognize the hard work and perseverance of the people behind the implementation of PAMANA projects.

Without the support of our partner government agencies, we would not be able to make development centers accessible to far-flung communities.  Without the unwavering dedication of local government units, we would not be able to empower the women to spearhead development projects they deem necessary for their communities.  And without the cooperation of the people themselves, we would not be able to illuminate the future of many families that once had no access to streetlights – families that never knew before that there could be so much light, even in the darkest nights; familiesthat never knew before that peace and development are possible, even in areas affected by conflict, even as peace negotiations are still ongoing.

So, to all of our partners, maraming salamat.

But while it is important to mention the strides PAMANA has made in terms of bringing peace and development to communities all over the country, we would be amiss if we do not also recognize in this forum the challenges and obstacles we have encountered during its implementation.

In fact, that is the main reason why we are all gathered here now: to evaluate PAMANA as the government’s peace and development framework, vis-à-vis its role as a complementary track to the formal talks across all peace tables.

With your knowledge and understanding of PAMANA and other development projects, we count on your expertise in evaluating the contribution of peace and development interventions to the over-all peace process and to the betterment of the lives of our fellow Filipinos all over the country.  I believe this venue is as good as any to highlight the best practices, to take note of our shortcomings in the past five years, and to discuss the best ways to move forward.

As everyone knows, we are now in the last stretch of the administration – we have barely three weeks left in the transition phase – and your insights on this multi-agency undertaking will hopefully ease the burden on the incoming administration in terms of getting a good grasp of the finer points of PAMANA and its importance to the comprehensive peace process.

In closing, let me express my appreciation for the recent pronouncement of Peace Adviser-nominee Jess Dureza in support of the special meeting between the GPH and the MILF panels in Kuala  Lumpur last May, where he said, and I quote: “We intend to continue with the gains and build on those already done and achieved.”

I take this as an affirmation that we have done something good – something tangible, something you can feel on your skin – to improve the lives of families and communities ravaged by decades of armed conflict.  So many of us have put in hard work towards creating a space where peace can prosper.  The sentiments on the ground clamoring for the continued implementation of peace and development interventions need to be heeded and acknowledged.

May this commitment from the incoming administration lead to even more resilient communities and to strengthened optimism – that sooner rather than later, we will achieve the peace that the Filipino people desire and deserve. That soon, we can banish completely the darkness of war and stand together, sisters and brothers all, with no one left behind, in the light of peace.

Thank you and good morning to all!