Message by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Forum: “Implications of Mamasapano on the Peace Process: Moving Forward”
5 March 2015
Dusit Thani Manila
Senators, Congressmen, members of the Peace Panels, Your Excellency, distinguished guests
First, thank you to the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) for hosting this important forum on the implications of Mamasapano on the peace process. I’m very pleased to provide the opening message for the forum.
As I said two days after Mamasapano, we lament the loss of life which resulted from the incident and I would reiterate what I have said previously: that is, to underline how important it is for the people of the Philippines, including Mindanao, that the peace process is not discarded because of events at Mamasapano.
Australia has a long history of supporting peace processes in the Philippines. Since 1996, we have been funding catalytic activities to encourage community-level peace building, strengthen key institutions and promote peace in Mindanao.
Since 2005 we, together with other friends in the international community, have provided funding through the Mindanao Trust Fund which supports communities in their reconstruction and development efforts.
More recently, Australia has funded the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities, or FASTRAC, which provides technical and operational support to the peace panels and to transitional bodies such as the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and more recently the Joint Normalisation Commission.
In the area of education, Australia provides significant annual funding to Mindanao through the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) Program in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
In January last year, Australia committed an additional A$6 million (approximately PhP 242 million) over three years, through our aid program, to help strengthen the peace process and boost capacity to implement the peace agreement.
It is through this new funding that Australia, through IAG and in conjunction with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and UNICEF, is supporting this forum today.
Along with Senators, Congressmen and those directly involved in the peace process, I’m pleased to see business leaders here today. As I said to the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce on Tuesday, the Philippines has some of the important conditions necessary to interest investors. These include:
• A fast growing economy in which many companies would like to engage
• A strategic location in the heart of Asia, and
• A skilled workforce.
However conflict has been a significant drag on the Philippines’ economic development, certainly in, but also beyond Mindanao. Oftentimes, international investors do not differentiate between conflict in parts of Mindanao and the situation in the rest of Mindanao and in the Philippines, more broadly.
The peace process provides the opportunity for development, for investment and for prosperity, in Mindanao and the Philippines as a whole. Australia is therefore a staunch supporter of the process towards lasting peace.
The alternative to peace does not bear thinking about.
But achieving peace does not come easily; this has been demonstrated in other conflict situations, such as Northern Ireland and Aceh, to name but two. It takes time, understanding, empathy and perspective. And friends… I am here to remind the government and people of the Philippines that Australia is a friend to the peace process.
Unfortunately, I can’t stay very long today, as I am flying out to Australia later today, but other colleagues from the Australian Embassy – led by our excellent Deputy Head of Mission, David Dutton – are here, and we look forward to constructive discussion and analysis on ways to move forward with the peace process post-Mamasapano.
Maraming salamat po.