CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Young indigenous peoples (IP) leaders from across Mindanao threw their support behind the implementation of the Duterte Administration’s “Whole-Of-Nation” Approach under Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).
The more than 200 participants to the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Youth Assembly committed to helping the national government implement the initiative which primarily aims to address the decades-long communist rebellion in the country.
“We, the representatives of this assembly, declare our full and unequivocal support to the national government’s Whole-Of-Nation Approach, which is a centerpiece of the Duterte Administration’s Peace and Development Agenda,” the delegates said in a resolution passed on June 15. “We believe that this approach is the best solution to the communist insurgency that has ravaged our communities, and provides us, the youth, the opportunity to work hand in hand with the government to achieve this goal.”
They pledged not to be used and abused by the communist insurgents, and will utilize our voices to speak out and convince members of our communities not to support the organization’s distorted ideology,” the resolution added.
President Rodrigo Duterte has formed NTF ELCAC to work out a mechanism to help end the decades-old communist insurgency, and institutionalize a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace.”
The Whole-Of-Nation Approach mandates all concerned agencies of government to work in a holistic and integrated manner to deliver much-needed services to underdeveloped, conflict-affected communities.
Through its Sectoral Unification, Capacity Building and Empowerment Cluster with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as a member, the NTF-ELCAC has started to engage various peace stakeholders to jumpstart the process.
The approach will utilize localized peace engagements wherein local government units and other community members situated in conflict-affected areas will take the lead in providing solutions to best resolve the nation’s insurgency problem.
In the same resolution, the youth leaders also urged President Duterte to declare the full implementation of RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts (IPRA) as part of the national government’s policy agenda in his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Through this declaration, we envision the IPRA’s full implementation to significantly impact on the lives of our indigenous peoples, specifically by allowing us to completely enjoy the four bundle of rights as stated in the IPRA,” the resolution said.
According to Dante Tumanding, political officer of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Youth Organization (MIPYO), they can contribute a lot to the Whole-Of-Nation approach.
“We are the frontlines and are the first ones affected whenever there is armed conflict in our communities,” Tumanding said.
This is the reason, Tumanding said, why the conduct of the peace assembly, organized by OPAPP in collaboration with MIPYO, is both timely and relevant.
“We wanted to equip our youth IP leaders across Mindanao with the skills and knowledge they will need to support the implementation of EO 70,” he said.
Meanwhile, James Binayao, MIPYO chairperson, said the youth assembly will enable them to advocate for the full implementation of IPRA law.
The IPRA is a peace covenant between the national government and indigenous peoples that aims to promote and protect the welfare and rights of IPs.
Since its passage in 1997, there has been a growing sentiment that IPs have not truly reaped the dividends of the landmark measure and as a result, have remained in the fringes of development.
“The youth can help push for the full implementation of the IPRA. This is the only law that fully recognizes the rights of the indigenous peoples,” Binayao said.
Through the Whole-Of-Nation Approach, he said the IP youth will be empowered and can serve as a bridge between the national government and indigenous communities.
“This assembly has given us the chance to speak up and be involved in the discussions. And now that the IP youth are united, we already have the confidence to tell the government what is in our hearts and minds,” Binayao said.
At the same event, OPAPP Director Pamela Padilla-Salvan, who spoke on behalf of Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr, called on the delegates to be strong and committed, as she urged them to use their voices to express their sentiments.
“Do not be afraid to speak out. There will be instances when your resolve will be tested. But if you believe in yourselves, you will succeed,” Padilla-Salvan said.
She also advised the participants to remain on the side of truth, listen to their elders, and be a partner of government.
“You have the power in your hands. Use this power with all your strength. We at OPAPP will remain by your side as you make your journey towards long-lasting peace and development,” Padilla-Salvan said.
The Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Youth Assembly was also supported by the NCIP, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, National Youth Commission and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 4th Infantry Division, 401 Brigade, 402nd Brigade, 403rd Brigade, 901st Brigade, 19th Infantry Battalion, 72Ist Brigade, 3Ist Brigade, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, and 1st Special Forces Battalion. (OPAPRU PR)