Asian ecumenical group sees Philippines as ‘model’

Asian ecumenical group sees Philippines as ‘model’

Despite its protracted and often obstacle-ridden peace processes, the Philippines is seen as a “model” for peace building in the region, says an Asian ecumenical leader.

“We look to the Philippines as a good model for church leaders actively engaged in supporting peace negotiations, and we will continue to monitor developments in that area,” said Carlos Ocampo, executive secretary for Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service at the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).

The CCA noted the recently-renewed peace talks between the Philippine government and the Democratic Front (NDF), a leftist umbrella organisation, and another between the government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Ocampo said agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration, which seeks to address the roots of the 42-year old armed conflict that has claimed tens of thousands combatants and civilians, were crucial to the government’s negotiations with the NDF.

“The Hague Joint Declaration represents a comprehensive agenda in responding to the long-standing conflict caused by socio-economic and political issues,” said Ocampo.

The declaration outlined a substantive agenda to be taken up during negotiations, including issues related to human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and finally an end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Talks were scuttled in 2004 under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Under president Benigno Aquino, they re-started in Oslo, Norway last February, only to be stalled by “obstacles to the negotiations” in August.

A special Norwegian envoy helped settle the impasse earlier this month, enabling talks in Oslo to resume in October, during which a major agenda, socio-economic reform, will be tackled.

The Malaysian government has also facilitated the talks. Ocampo said the negotiations would have important implications in neighbouring countries where there are both Muslim and Christian populations.

By Maurice Malanes, Ecumenical News International

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