Guts and grit in NGO’s peace efforts

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By Gingging Avellanosa-Valle

Bahin sang Bubay

Monday, December 16, 2013

A COMPELLING question in the minds of development workers in Mindanao is still driving them into pursuing the so-called elusive peace in this culturally diverse island of Mindanao. In the Moro areas, one finds young people among stalwarts and pioneers of non-government organizations operating in these volatile areas, seemingly untiring in providing what they believed as the right response to the complex problems besetting the island’s diverse populace.

But is there still hope in abetting the seemingly never-ending strife that continues to tear at the delicate fabric that is the hope for peace to happen in Mindanao? For non-government organizations (NGOs) working within the volatile areas such as Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental, that glimmer of hope is still there, that is why, they continue to work for it adopting strategies and whatever approaches to enable them to move with certainty even if there are risks involved.

One such NGO is the Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits or Ecoweb that is based in Lanao region. Ecoweb has been cited for its endeavours at Conflict transformation among their partner communities where Christians and Muslims co-exist. Its initial pioneering efforts together with many other stakeholders in trying to analyze and put their stakes on the resolution of a land conflict in Lumbac in the last few years since 2008 have made giant strides in peace-building in this part of Mindanao.

Finding itself in the vortex of a social volcano that was about to explode in the mid-80s, the precursor of the current Ecoweb, started work among farmers in remote communities through animal dispersal, provision of water system and also served as a go-between in land conflicts among tenants and landlords.

Characterized by cataclysmic changes that saw the debacle of an oppressive regime, this period brought about such a great shift in the socio-cultural sphere in the country, the Philippines having undergone a political crisis as the iron hand of President Ferdinand Marcos started losing grip of political power. However, it was not only the despotic reign of an unpopular regime that was gasping for air and relevance, but also the so-called people’s movements, which had been the forces behind that had slowly driven home the final blow to the tyrant henchman of Martial law.

Like a giant whirlpool that threw everything within the radius of its current, the civil society or commonly known as NGOs that sprouted like mushrooms after a night’s rainfall in the 70s were also dislodged and disturbed, such that many among them had to stand back and take a second look, if at all, they were still relevant after the so-called EDSA uprising.

Ms. Regina Salvador-Antequisa, the executive director of Ecoweb was once quoted as asking a soul-searching question: “...can we really heal the past without truly addressing the wrong? Can we build a better future with an unanswered troubled past? We say no.”

The certainty in Ms. Antequisa’s statement has been proven through the years as Ecoweb continues its peace efforts and direct intervention into efforts of conflict resolutions that are geared towards social transformation at the local level, even under pressure through the years and into the future.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 16, 2013.


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