June 23, 2014
International Conference Center Hiroshima in Heiwa Kinen Koen,
Delegates from the Government of the Philippines, representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), representatives of civil society in the Bangsamoro, distinguished guests and journalists, ladies and gentlemen.
I am honored to speak at the opening ceremony of this seminar on the "Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao (COP)". I am pleased to welcome all of you, in particular our friends from the Philippines, here in Hiroshima today. Indeed, Hiroshima is an appropriate venue as it is one of the cities in the world where we are obliged to reflect on the meaning and the value of peace. In this sense, I would like to convey my personal gratitude to the people and leaders of our host city, Hiroshima.
The first "Consolidation for Peace" seminar took place in Malaysia in 2006. It was jointly organized by JICA and the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). I would like to applaud USM's substantial contribution to enhancing the practical value of COP, as well as its indirect support for the peace process in Mindanao.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The aim of the seminar is to discuss challenges in the establishment of the Bangsamoro government. It will focus particularly on three issues of critical importance: (1) the socio-economic development of the Bangsamoro, (2) the institutionalization of the Bangsamoro government, and (3) the development in normalization. The seminar will also provide a space for stakeholders to debate key actions needed to address those challenges.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) represents an important milestone in the history of the Philippines. As a platform for peace, CAB can help promote further development in the Philippines as a whole.
Peace in Mindanao has a regional significance beyond the Philippines. As ASEAN is planning to establish economic, political and security, and social and cultural communities by 2015, CAB can help improve the conditions of peace in Southeast Asia. Peace and stability in Mindanao provides basic conditions to enhance maritime connectivity of Southeast Asia.
CAB has a global significance, too. There are many conflicts going on in various parts of the world without the prospects of resolution. As a good model of conflict-resolution, the Mindanao peace process can also offer invaluable lessons for countries affected by conflict in other regions of the world.
About two years ago, in May 2012, I visited the Philippines including Mindanao. That was my first official visit abroad as president of JICA. I had the opportunities of meeting with leaders of the government of the Philippines, MILF, ARMM, and IMT. I also met many ordinary people in Kotabato. They all aspired to peace.
When I visited a vocational training center, a young student told me that she wanted to support her mother and family since she had lost her father in armed conflict few years before. She believed that their life would be getting better when peace comes.
Now, as a result of continuous efforts of all parties concerned and as a result of CAB, the prospect of enduring peace is brighter than ever. After I attended the signing ceremony of the comprehensive agreement, I had the privilege of seeing President Aquino and Chairman Murado separately. I was extremely encouraged because both President Aquino and Chairman Murad embraced the notion of inclusive development as an essential pre-requisite for lasting peace. I strongly believe that social and political inclusion is a key factor for the consolidation of peace in Mindanao.
As you know, Japan has involved in the peace process by participating in the International Contact Group(ICG) and assigning a JICA staff member specializing in socio-economic issues to the International Monitoring Team (IMT). Throughout this process of participation, we have kept in our mind that the promotion of inclusive development is crucial.
Concretely, three features characterize what we have done.
First, JICA has been supporting all stakeholders in the peace process. In other words, JICA has not only provided support through the central government of the Philippines, but has also been working on the ground, providing direct support to communities. As a result of these engagements, we think we have gained a significant level of trust from local residents and their leaders.
Second, the scope of our assistance is comprehensive and human-centered. Under the collective assistance efforts in Mindanao called the "Japan-Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development," or "J-BIRD," JICA has implemented various projects to address the basic needs of communities in the region. In addition to these efforts, we have worked towards strengthening the capacity of strategic personnel in key local institutions. Our goal is to equip these officials with crucial skills and knowledge they can use to continue providing public services to the people as well as to facilitate transition to the new Bangsamoro government.
Third, JICA has gone beyond our traditional way of assisting conflict-affected areas by providing context-appropriate venues for open dialogue among key stakeholders of the Mindanao peace process. By bridging official peace talks with ground-level conflict resolution debates, we would like the voices of the people to be reflected in the conversations held by their leaders.
Going forward, JICA will continue to emphasize the necessity of social and political inclusion. We will provide seamless assistance to the people of Mindanao to realize their expectations for a better future.
Ladies and gentlemen, the prospect of lasting peace has never been brighter than now. But the challenges ahead are daunting indeed. The time remaining between now and the target date set for the establishment of the Bangsamoro government is very limited. Procedural and substantive difficulties should be worked out quickly. The devil may be in the detail. I would like the participants to take advantage of this three-day seminar to make progress to overcome many of the challenges ahead.
The ultimate responsibility for peace rests on the shoulders of the people of the Philippines. But JICA will remain a steadfast partner and supporter of their efforts to achieve enduring peace.
Thank you very much.