Government peace negotiators over the weekend urged leaders of various indigenous peoples (IP) groups to form an advisory council that will aid the peace talks with different rebel groups.
“You understand your situations the best; therefore, you are also the ones who can suggest the best solutions. But for this to happen, you also need to come together as one,” Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza told leaders of IP groups during a peace table conversation over the weekend in Midsayap, North Cotabato.
The advisory council is envisioned to give IP groups a voice in peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front and Muslim separatist rebels.
Dureza earlier said that the creation of an IP advisory council will guarantee a more inclusive and transparent peace process under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We cannot solve your problems for you because we do not know what your problems are. That is why there is a need for you to sit down and discuss them and the possible solutions,” Dureza said.
“We cannot promise to deliver all the needs you have mentioned, but what we can promise is that we will present your concerns during the negotiations,” he added.
Dureza also reminded the leaders that they can start working on their concerns even prior to a final peace agreement.
“We must not solely rely on the peace agreements. If we can act now for the betterment of your welfare, we can do so and not wait anymore for the signing of peace pacts,” he said.
The meeting with the IP leaders is part of the continuing consultation process of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process with the “bigger peace tables” to discuss their concerns and participation in the peace process.
“The negotiating table is a smaller table and only involves the government and the rebel groups. The ‘bigger peace table’ is the general public, which will be affected by the issues tackled in the smaller table. It is, therefore, important to listen to the bigger table,” Dureza explained.
“Peace-building conversations” with different stakeholders are also set to be held in Surigao del Norte and Compostela Valley on January 12.
Dureza also assured the IP groups that they will be represented in the new and expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which will draft the enabling law for the implementation of all Bangsamoro peace deals and other pertinent measures including the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.