market at Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
“Peace is the foundation of
unity and harmony of the local people of Barangay St. Christine,”
said Barangay Captain Merenciano Martizano in his welcome address
during the local peace consultation (LPC) held at Purok 4 last
October 12-14, 2011. Though it was their first time to experience
LPC, the punong barangay happily expressed his gratitude of the
peace effort being shared with them, being first of the 13 barangays
of the municipality of Lianga, Surigao Sur to under this process.
This workshop-gathering has
two main objectives: 1) validating and updating the barangay
profile; 2) for further analysis of present key issues and problems
of the community; and 3) identify actions or solutions to the
problems and make out possible areas of collaboration among the key
stakeholders. The Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI), in
partnership with the local government unit of Lianga, facilitated
the three-day activity.
A total of 34 participants
came for the consultation. Among them were members of the barangay
council, barangay health workers, farmers’ association, tribal
council, leaders from the fisherfolks, some representatives from
non-government organizations, including the head teacher of St.
Christine National High School, Apolonia Sanches.
“Saint Christine has
peace-loving people. But how can we achieve peace if we don’t seek
for help?” said Mayor Roy Hegino Sarmen as he shared the beginning
of the partnership with Balay Mindanaw. Like the barangay captain,
he was also thankful for this break for Lianga to experience and to
undergo peace initiative. Lianga is a relatively slow but promising
town, but perceived by many as a conflict zone, thus considered by
people as a dangerous area.
Aside from Mayor Sarmen, key
persons who joined the opening of the consultation were Vice-Mayor
Robert Lala, Maj. Judith Loayon from the 401st Infantry Brigade of
the Armed Forces of the, Philippines and Lawig Kalinaw leaders from
Misamis Oriental who helped facilitate the workshops. A
representative from the neighboring town of Barobo – Joseph
Porgatorio, the cluster head of the municipality of Barobo and
assistant provincial director of the Department of Interior and
Local Government, also attended the activity.
Encounters between the Philippine
military and the New Peoples’ Army have been part of their problem,
although the recent skirmishes are concentrated in the uplands. The last
displacement of indigenous peoples happened in 2009, affecting most of the
500 households of the barangay.
Land conflicts and problem on land
tenure, and the lack of income and livelihood activities were salient among
the identified issues of the farmers who comprise most of the households of
the barangay. Thus the acquisition of Certificate of Land Ownership Award
(CLOA) will be worked out immediately with the Department of Agrarian
Reform. Agricultural productivity is equally important in their economic
sustenance. Other issues raised were the poor condition of farm-to-market
roads, absence of potable water system, as well as lack of latrines in most
of the households. The Barangay Technical Working Group agreed to finalize
the Barangay Peace and Development Plan for the next five years, based on
the output of the consultation.
Manlupig, president and chairperson of Balay Mindanaw, was thankful
of the trust that the local government of Lianga has imparted for
the vision of cultivating peace and development in the barangay.
DILG’s Mr. Porgatorio also
said that “the ways to achieve peace are 1) to protect and respect
what was created (nature, earth, and environment); 2) to proclaim
that we are a family of human beings; and 3) to understand and
respect each of our religious freedom because the right to cultivate
our personal faith is a sacred right.”
[Jefferson Opaon Syed or “Popoy”
is a new volunteer of Balay Mindanaw under the Year of Service
Volunteer Program of Xavier University. He is now assigned at the
International Center for Peace in Mindanaw (ICPeace) helping in its
training, research and documentation activities.]