Working together for peace and development
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Franz Jessen (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2018 - 12:00am

Through an official EU statement that was released on 27 July 2018, the EU welcomed the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law by the Congress of the Philippines and its subsequent signing by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. It represented a promising opportunity for the Filipino people to embrace peace and stability and that it underlined both parties’ commitment to peace and their ability to tackle a variety of complex matters through a comprehensive and inclusive law. As a matter of fact, the EU has remained for decades a staunch supporter of the Mindanao Peace Process and is prepared to support the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in the future, in view of long-lasting peace, development and prosperity in Mindanao and for the Filipino people. Furthermore, we have noted with satisfaction that Malacañang had welcomed this positive message of the European Union.

When I took my post of EU Ambassador in Manila in 2015, the impact of the Mamasapano incident in the peace negotiations could still be felt in the political debate. Nevertheless, the European Union (EU) has always been confident that peace negotiations between the government and the MILF could eventually lead to a successful outcome. We have therefore continued to closely work with Secretary Dureza (who has visited EU institutions on several occasions), MINDA, the MILF, the MNLF, as well as other stakeholders of the peace process to make sure that our political investment in peace and development was not lost. 

 Over the past decade, the EU has been consistently engaged in promoting peace and stability in Mindanao. As illustrated by the joint visit of  EU Heads of mission to Cotabato in October 2017 and my visit to Marawi in March 2018 and my regular visits to Cotabato, the commitment for peace is common to EU institutions and to EU member states. Our own experience in Europe has shown that the challenges that societies face to withstand and recover from internal crises and conflict can only be resolved through dialogue and partnership. Based on best practices, and in close cooperation with partner countries, EU institutions have developed an extensive toolbox of peacebuilding instruments that includes support to mediation, practical confidence building measures at the grassroots level as well as humanitarian support for victims of conflict. Through its contribution to the International Monitoring Team, the EU has also paid attention to respect of human rights and protection of civilians in Muslim Mindanao.

 The importance of producing peace dividends in the short to medium term was made clear to me when meeting with local actors, businessmen and youth representatives from Mindanao. The need for dialogue and cooperation with those who still face the consequences of conflict in their daily lives is essential for the continuation of our engagement. After all, peace, no matter how desired and deserved, cannot be sustainable if not paired with economic and social development in conflict-affected areas. 

The adoption of the BOL has spread optimism and new hopes for a peaceful and sustainable future in Mindanao. It is however important that the underlying challenges are not neglected. The EU is a peace project itself that has grown to become a global and comprehensive actor and we are always pleased to share what we have learned from our own experience.

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(Franz Jessen is the Ambassador of the European Union.)

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