QUEZON CITY- The alarming food crisis that hit the country roused Manila peace advocates to call on government to invest on peace in Mindanao not through arms but through food production.
Peace advocates from around Metro Manila gathered in the Quezon City Memorial Circle for a solidarity lunch with internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Maguindanao and Cotabato called Sa Dulang ng Pagkakaisa to urge for an intensified humanitarian assistance in Mindanao and ask government to invest in peace through sustainable food production.
On their second day of pilgrimage called Duyog Mindanao Peoples’ Caravan for Peace and Solidarity, peace advocates demanded to strengthen Mindanao as the food basket of the country. However, the ongoing armed hostilities in Mindanao has prevented the capacity of farmers especially the Bangsamoro farming communities to produce food.
Syrianbai Sangcupan, one of the representatives of IDPs from Datu Piang, Maguidanao lamented over their deplorable condition in the evacuation centers and their inability to go back to their farmlands.
“Naiwan namin ang aming kabuhayan sa mga barangay at dito sa mga evacuation center ay naghihirap kami sa maraming mga bagay tulad ng pagkain, sanitasyon at tulugan. Dito ay umaasa lang kami sa tulong-kawanggawa na lubos na nagpapababa sa aming dignidad,” (We left our livelihood in our barangay. (We have difficulty on food, sanitation and shelter in the evacuation center. We rely only on dole-outs which lower our dignity as persons)
Since most of them are farmers, she added that “ang aming mga taniman ay lubusan na ring napabayaan at nasisira. Ang walang humpay na digmaang ito ay nagdudulot lamang ng ibayong paghihirap sa mga mamamayan (The war cost us this much to neglect our farm. It only intensified our poverty)”.
“The war in Mindanao has only aggravated the poverty situation in the region,” said Augusto Miclat, Jr, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and convernor of Duyog Mindanao.
Miclat noted the recent findings of the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao which said that while Mindanao and its crops account for 40 percent of the country’s food requirement and 44 percent share to the country’s aquatic resources, poverty rate in the island is 32.9 percent and provinces Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur which are home to the Bangsamoro people, are the poorest provinces.
Miclat said that “displacement of farmers such as the family of Sangcupan has definitely limited food production in the country. This adds to their burden of lack of livelihood source and restricted access to food. At present, hunger looms in every evacuation center,” Miclat said.
“To address the food crisis in a national scale, ceasefire should be at hand. Military operations in communities should be suspended and both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should resume the peace process. The IDPs should now be allowed to return to their communities to start planting,” Miclat added.
“In solidarity to the Bangsamoro people who are among the producers of our food in Luzon, we therefore say that war is not an option to the economic problems of Mindanao. One path to peace is to develop the agricultural capacity of this promise land Mindanao,” said Debbie Cabanag, youth representative of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Cabanag herself has visited the evacuation center in Datu Piadng, Maguindanao.
Contingents from Northern Luzon, Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog will travel to Visayas tomorrow (November 23). On November 28, Moro communities will welcome the whole contingent in Cotabato City to celebrate the start of the Mindanao Week of Peace.
Part of their Mindanao journey will be visits and interaction with IDPs in evacuation centers in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Lanao.
The Duyog Mindanao convernors are: Mindanao Peace Weavers, Initiatives for International Dialogue, Waging Peace Philippines, Generation Peace Network, Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute and the Bishop-Ulama Forum. Co-convenors: La Liga Filipina Policy Institute, CARE for Mindanao, Bangsa Moro Peoples’ Solidarity, Anak Mindanao, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Philippine Human Rights Information Center and Balay Rehabilitation Center.
Endorsers of this event include the: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Bishop Ulama Forum, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict- Southeast Asia.
The MILF has also signified support to the endeavor.