• Mindanao peace wins ambassadors’ support

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    Ambassadors from at least 18 countries on Thursday signed a declaration stating their support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in a move that would hopefully bring long and lasting peace to southern Philippines.

    At the sidelines of the signing, British Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad said peace in Mindanao is a fundamental concern of the international community.

    “You cannot ignore any kind of instability anywhere in the world,” Ahmad added.
    According to him, the declaration of support is a show of solidarity with Filipinos on “this long-standing issue.”

    He noted that the international community considers peace in Mindanao as vital to global peace because insecurities in any part of the world are a “magnet” for extremism and violence.

    “The whole world wants to see a peaceful Philippines, one where there is no terrorism and no threat to the lives of people in Mindanao,” Ahmad said in Tagalog, a widely spoken language in the country.

    A statement from the group, International Friends for Peace, called on “all concerned to remain engaged in the peace process to give life to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and to the long term political, economic and social pillars that will bring the peace dividend to the country as a whole.”

    The group asked commitment from “all stakeholder” to enable the Bangsamoro people form an “effective and inclusive, devolved administration as called for in the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

    “To do this will require flexibility on all sides to work within the current Constitution of the Republic and recognition of the aspirations of the people of the Bangsamoro,” the statement read.

    Ahmad, however, clarified the statement was not intended to push Congress into passing the controversial BBL, saying “it is up to this administration” on whether passing the law would be made a priority.

    He said it is not in support of the current administration or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    Although it gives credit to the progress of the peace talks, “the intention of the signatories is to look to the end of and beyond this administration and project our hope and support to the future.”

    The statement was signed “to encourage [Congress] to work on this.”

    And although there are issues on the constitutionality of the BBL, Ahmad said, “We always have to be optimistic no matter how hard the challenges are.”

    He also assured that “no matter how long” it takes to pass the bill, the international community will support efforts to bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

    The people in Mindanao and anywhere in the world where there is conflict have already “suffered tremendously,” the envoy said, so “political leadership” is needed to arrive at peace.

    During the signing, Ahmad said peace in Mindanao would “allow development and prosperity to take place” in the region and in the Philippines as a whole.

    “The one and only objective is to support the peace process in Mindanao and to encourage its main actors so that the Philippines presents the world with an edifying example of conflict resolution [that]the international community is very much in need of,” the statement said.

    There were 18 signatories to the declaration.

    Although the group wanted more signatures, it admitted difficulties in accommodating “all views.”

    “Even so, we think that the number of embassies is a very fair representation of the international community based in Manila,” it said.

    The signatories were: Ambassadors William Tweddell of Australia, Neil Reeder of Canada, Jan Top Christensen of Denmark, Thomas Ossowski of Germany, Massimo Roscigno of Italy, Kazuhide Ishikawa of Japan, Marion Derckx of The Netherlands, Erik Forner of Norway, Martinus Slabber of South Africa, Luis Calvo of Spain, Asif Ahmad of the United Kingdom, Philip Goldberg of the United States, Charge d’ Affaires Stella de Araneta of Colombia, Ngerikl Baules of Palau, Mihai Sion of Romania, Raoul Imbach of Switzerland, DHM Laurent Legodec of France and Ambassador-designate Franz Jessen of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines.

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