3. Achieving Lasting Peace; Ending Armed Conflict
The Philippines has been afflicted with social unrest and armed conflict for several decades now. The roots of the insurgency are poverty and underdevelopment. Apart from aggressive peace negotiations that must lead to a peace settlement and a peace accord amongst the different warring factions, economic growth and good governance must be put in place to achieve lasting peace in war-torn areas.
The communist insurgency and the Muslim separatists have cost us the loss of tens of thousands of lives in the last half a century. It has also drained our national coffers of meager resources that could have been used to fund basic social services for our people. Achieving lasting peace is therefore essential if we are to truly move the nation forward.
How do we achieve lasting peace? The peace initiatives during the Ramos Presidency of 1992 to 1998 are a rich source of lessons that can serve as a template for future peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA, NDF, and the MILF. The Ramos Presidency arguably was the most successful presidency in terms of pushing for a genuine peace agenda with various rebel groups such as the CPP-NPA, the MNLF, the MILF, as well as rightist rebels from the RAM.
The ceasefire talks and negotiations with all armed groups created an atmosphere of relative peace in the years 1992 to 1998. The peace accord with the MNLF signed in 1996 created a window of opportunity for development in Mindanao. Through aggressive peace negotiations and an aggressive enticing of the private sector to invest in Mindanao, a wave of development was realized which gave way to the development in cities like General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City. Prior to the 90s, these cities were all backward and underdeveloped. This progress was achieved as well in part due to the emergence of reform minded local leaders in these areas.
Photo of the Cagayan de Oro skyline courtesy of SkyscraperCity.com
The Ramos administration's peace and economic initiatives, together with the efforts of strong leaders in the local level, made progress in many areas in Mindanao possible. It is a template that should be built upon by future administrations. A second wave of peace and economic development initiatives can lead to the emergence of more progressive cities like Marbel, Iligan, Cotabato and Zamboanga in Mindanao and progress in provinces such as those in Samar and the Bicol Region where the incidence of poverty continue to be very high.