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PEACETALK: Our work for peace is something that does not come overnight. I call it peace by piece

(Transcript of the remarks by Philippine Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 24 Apri 2018. Transcript courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)

Mr. President, your Excellencies, good afternoon. First of all, let me bring to you the warm greetings of the Filipino people and their honored President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. I have a long speech because it talks about the lifetime that we’ve been doing peace work and so I decided to throw away my speech and perhaps just tell some of the narratives that we have been doing today in our work for peace.

First of all, the President who is boldly trying to address deep issues in the country – issues of corruption, drugs, and criminality – but high in the agenda of the Philippine president is how to deal with the peace efforts today, and rightly so, because you know very well that as I speak today, we’re doing a lot of work towards addressing unease and issues of conflict in the country.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process updates the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the ongoing peace processes in the Philippines on April 24, 2018 in New York. From OPAPP video

As we speak today, we are now in the process of picking up the pieces in our work in negotiating just and sustainable peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

I say that ‘as we speak today’ because the President had cancelled the peace talks (in November 2017)because he felt that at that time, there was no enabling environment conducive to resume the negotiations. Today he had found time and effort to already start resuming the negotiations.

We’re also addressing our issues with the Bangsamoro people – the Muslim people in our country who are at the Southern part of the Philippines. We have already signed the agreements before but the implementations did not push through. We are now picking up the pieces again and our Congress now is addressing work towards entrenching what agreements have been signed by passing a law, and that is now a work in progress.

But there are certain things that we align ourselves with. As we’ve heard from the other speakers today, we aligned with the concept of peace and development as a nexus towards bringing sustainable peace.

As you all know very well, you cannot have peace – or you cannot sustain peace – if there is no development; and you cannot also sustain development unless there is peace.

All of these refer to my narrative about the dilemma of the chicken and egg. Which comes first? Should it be the chicken, or the egg? Some will say it’s the egg. Another person is saying it’s the chicken. But the whole issue of peace and development is in the nexus of that narrative.

Which should come first? An ….  of peace and development roadmap – they must both come hand in hand and at the same time, not one after the other. We also have to look at peace lens in doing development. We cannot undertake projects that are also triggers of conflict. That is why it is very important that there must be inclusivity in our work for peace.

We know about the urban language of the so-called moral hazard. We cannot address sustainable peace if you only attend to people who are triggers of conflict, or are involved in conflict. Because the bigger table – which is the public – will say why are you taking care closely of those who are fighting the government? We, your peace constituents, are being left out. Shall we also take up arms in order to get the attention of the government? That is also very important in our work for peace.

We have also organized peace tables because in our negotiations with rebels across the table, we always tell them, “we are dealing with you, but you are a smaller table.”

You know why? There’s a bigger table outside – and that is the public itself. Because if you will address the concern of the smaller table, you will have a problem of implementing agreement as what we have seen In our country very recently.

You have to therefore address the bigger table. The bigger table is the general public. We have experienced, for example, of the non-passage of a law that would implement and entrench the peace agreement with the Bangsamoro. Why? – Because the public did not buy into the agreement. So the plebiscite and the members of the Congress did not approve it.

Now we are addressing the bigger table as we address the smaller table. We also have to recognize a very basic thing about unity and diversity. The Philippines is so diverse: we have Muslims, Christians, indigenous peoples. They have their own identity and way of doing things. We don’t want to mainstream them into one body, and their culture in one practice. We must accept that we are different, understand that we are different – because it is in unity in diversity that we can bring about a sustainable peace in the country.

Remember, when we sign peace agreements, it is not already the end. In fact, signing of peace agreements provides more challenges to be implemented on the ground. There is a reason why we have the 1996 Peace Agreement with the Moro group. Up to now we are still in the process of working towards full implementation of peace agreements.

Agreements are only an initial step. They provide challenges even and it is how we are able to come up. And in these challenges that will bring us further towards sustainable peace.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the United Nations and the foreign nations who have kept faith with our work for peace. Many mechanisms for peace have been in place in the country today are being supported strongly by the UN systems and the UN agencies. But aside from financial support, I’d like to mention the importance of the presence of mediators who are facilitators of our peace meetings. We have noticed that when there are foreign nations supporting the peace process, it is not too easy for the rebel groups in times of challenging situations in the process of the negotiation that they will walk away from the table.

We consider our foreign partners as our umbilical cords that will keep us intact together. Now we are facing violent extremism as a big challenge not only to the Philippines but to the whole world as well. We have a recent incident wherein violent extremism occurred in a place called Marawi. There are many lessons to be learned from that, and we are still handling that now. We are trying to rebuild the results of conflict and the destruction because of the incident but as you know very well, and from our own experience, and I think every country experiences this, it’s very easy to reconstruct buildings and structures. But it is very difficult to put back again the structure of social cohesion.

The idea of social healing is very important. We would like to thank again the United Nations in bringing about this new paradigm shift – not only putting a lot of effort and focus on rebuilding the aftermaths of conflict, but also in investing in preventing the onslaught of conflict.

This is where we are thankful because we, the Philippines, had experienced such problem. And you know very well that addressing this early on without waiting for incidents of unease to arise, is something that is more meaningful and valuable in our work for peace.

Our work for peace is something that does not come overnight. I call it peace by piece – one step at a time. If you will listen to Columbia saying brick by brick – we cannot be an overnight structure that we can see immediately before us. But each year, each country, each administration works in every brick. Sometimes one brick was put down, broken, but we have to repair it so we can reach the final destination.

The work for peace is not an easy to road to travel. There are roadblocks. There are many ways, however, to peace. We cannot avoid roadblocks, find way, but we have to stay in the course.

And so it is where we thank our foreign partners with our work. The challenge in the Philippines is continuing, and we hope that we will continue to get support and operation most especially by the United Nations.

Thank you very much. Maraming salamat po at mabuhay kayong lahat.

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