Delegates of the Duyog Mindanao Caravan for Peace and Solidarity finally arrived in Cagayan de Oro City to finally start the Mindanao leg of their journey and extend their support to the hundreds of thousands of refugees now living in evacuation camps in Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces.
Delegates from Bacolod who compose the Pax Christi delegation said that for most of them, this will be their first time to witness what it is like living in Mindanao. This will be a breakthrough to know the reasons behind the decade-long conflict in the region and the increasing number of internally displaced people due to the ongoing armed hostilities.
While onboard the ship from Bacolod to Mindanao, Mark Cervates of Pax Christi Bacolod City observed that for one, the basis of the conflict has been deeply rooted to the land struggle. And with this opportunity through Duyog Mindanao, he finds it more interesting to listen to the voices of people from the ground, the very people living in the communities who have been the usual casualty in times of war and humanitarian crisis.
Wanting to connect his support to the struggling sugarcane farmworkers of Negros and the people of Mindanao who remain landless and live in abject poverty especially those languishing in evacuation camps, Cervantes said that this Peace Caravan is a fresh start. Having integrated with the sakadas or sugarcane plantation workers of Negros, he has witnessed their suffering from poor living condition and low wages from rich landlords who lack the political will to distribute their vast tracts of lands through agrarian reform.
As of last count, the internally displaced people in the province of Datu Piang, Maguindanao have already reached 600,000 and more are unaccounted for in different areas. Most of them are deprived of basic services such as water and sanitation, education, food and a dignified living condition.
“When we go back home to Negros, we want to share what we will see and feel when we shall visit Datu Piang and Lanao to those who see war as mundane or a usual phenomenon in Mindanao. We want to gather more support especially from local governments, schools, business and other concerned groups on the call of the people to live in peace. It is relevant to discuss peace in the context of those victims of war.”
Caravan delegates also urged the public to sign the petition calling to stop the armed hostilities in Mindanao and resumption of peace talks. The Visayas trip gathered support from Negros Occidental Provincial Board Member Patrick Lacson, Bacolod Bishop Navarro and Iloilo City Councilor Jam Barronda.
After Cagayan de Oro, half of them will travel to Lanao province and the other half shall take the Bukidnon and Davao trip before all will finally converge in Cotabato City to celebrate the Mindanao Week of Peace.