PEACE advocates from different sectors in Mindanao met anew Tuesday in Cagayan de Oro to formulate and finalize stand in pushing forward the government's peace initiatives for the island.

Orlando Ravanera, regional director of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) in Northern Mindanao, headed the peace forum with other peace advocates from Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region and Soccsksargen, represented by regional directors of the CDA, Muslim leaders and some cooperatives in Northern Mindanao.

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During the forum, Ravanera introduced the "The Seven Paths to Peace," as what the group believed would lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.

The group agreed that peace would be attained through sustainable agriculture, which long term development in Mindanao depends on it, citing poor farmers do the "back-breaking" job but practically do not benefit the output of the farmed lands, especially those that were onto conventional agriculture.

Peace, for them, could also be achieved through "protection, rehabilitation, conservation and preferential use rights of natural resources; giving the Muslims, lumads, small farmers and fisherfolk the rights to develop their own resources through their cooperatives that must be accorded "with utmost priority."

The group also called on water and power utilities to transform as cooperatives, giving the member-consumers personal hand in owning and managing the facilities to lower down the cost and somehow reduce the incidence of poverty in Mindanao.

"More importantly, the member-consumers will exercise their God-given right of decision-making," the group added.

The group said peace negotiations between the rebels and the government has yet to take off because negotiators involved did not come from the "disputed land".

"We need to empower the people. Mindanao people are still powerless. We can introduce social transformation through people empowerment," Ravanera said, addressing the participants.

According to the group, peace can be reached through conflict transformation, management and resolution, quoting Sheik Ali Mamondiong who said: "A boil cannot be cured by merely cutting it off with a blade. The contaminated blood will only produce more and more boils."

The group believes that "cooperativism" would be the key to mitigate, if not, uproot the causes of conflict in Mindanao.

As Muslim cooperatives struggled for years, the group agreed that peace among all other tribes in the country could also be achieved through promoting Halal food in the whole world.

Ravanera said on October 29, 2010, a convention of peace advocates will be held in Cagayan de Oro where peace advocates in Mindanao will present the initiatives to be stipulated on the Peace Declaration before President Benigno Aquino III and some international peace icons. (Loui S. Maliza)