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23 SEPTEMBER 2008
OIC PLEDGES ALLOUT SUPPORT FOR MINDANAO DEVELOPMENT
NEW YORK—Without the Philippines asking, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), has offered its support for the economic development of Mindanao in the form of specific projects and funding assistance that could improve the lives of the people in Southern Philippines.
This was revealed on 23 September by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza after newly elected OIC Secretary General Elmeddin Ihsanoglu appeared to be convinced that the government's handling of the situation in Mindanao is right.
Ihsanoglu told President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during their bilateral meeting that ''peace can be attained only if the people's lives are improved,'' to which the President agreed.
President Arroyo had bilateral talks here with heads of state of many countries, big and small. In the case of the OIC, it was Ihsanoglu who initiated the meeting with the President.
Dureza said Ihsanoglu appeared to be well-informed about developments in Mindanao even before President Arroyo briefed him on chain of events that led to the cancellation of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the dissolution of the government peace panel and the military and police operations against rogue MILF elements responsible for the atrocities committed against civilians in some areas of Mindanao.
The OIC Ihsanoglu said will exert efforts to consolidate the various Bangsa Moro factions.
''We will do our role to consolidate the different factions and help in the socio-economic development of Mindanao and improve the life of the people in the area because there can't be peace without economic development,” Ihsanoglu said.
Explaining the big shift in her policy on the Mindanao conflict, the President told the OIC head that in the political settlement, ''we will conduct dialogues with the communities and stakeholders and then decide what steps to be taken.''
These steps, she added, must be in the context of the United Nations-accepted principle of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR).
Secretary Dureza, a former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the conduct of DDR under the accepted principle of the UN means ''not outright disarmament. “Outright disarmament,” Dureza said, means another thing.
“You have first to develop an environment of trust so that rebels and the communities that have been in conflict will develop a little trust so that eventually there will be no need for those firearms,'' he pointed out.
Like what they did in Northern Ireland, President Arroyo once again said, ''we have to undergo the experiences of Northern Ireland.''
Ihsanoglu also told the President that the OIC supports any effort to reach a peaceful settlement of the Mindanao conflict but such any such effort must be based on respect for the sovereign integrity of the Philippines and that he would not allow that that line is crossed.
It means, Dureza said, that the OIC respects the efforts of the Philippines to reach a political settlement of the Mindanao issue but not in the context of cession or independence but within the context of Philippine territorial and sovereign integrity.
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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