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Kagawasan 143 bolsters timely service to friends rescued

BUTUAN CITY - The provincial government of Agusan del Norte and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Eastern Mindanao inaugurated the Kagawasan 143, the country’s first peace center that will serve as a bridge so stakeholders can better understand and support the former rebels (FRs) who chose the path of peace and reconciliation, and provide them with the necessary resources and opportunities for a streamlined reintegration into the society.

Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante; Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña, OPAPRU director for Eastern Mindanao; along with Philippine National Police (PNP) Caraga Regional Director PBGen. Kirby Kraft; Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Caraga and secretariat of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC), Regional Director Maria Loisella E. Lucino; BGen. Ariel Adonis Orio, brigade commander of the 402nd  Brigade; and other military officials led the ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, September, 2023 20 at the Camp Bancasi, Butuan City. 

In her message, Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante explained that the Kagawasan 143 takes the lead in the coordination of the broader implementation of provincial peace-building initiatives, programs, and measures saying, “This coordination will be directed toward streamlining the delivery of fundamental services and social interventions for FRs, their families, and the wider communities."

"To provide comprehensive support to former rebels, their families, and the communities they belong to. This endeavor aligns with and bolsters the ongoing peace initiatives within the province, including the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)," added the governor on the primary purpose of the Kagawasan 143.

First-ever peace center

The momentous opening of the Kagawasan 143 peace center  is in line with OPAPRU's observance of the 2023 National Peace Consciousness Month. It highlighted the best practice of Davao City's  Peace 911, now in a concrete and decent facility as point of coordination of the various projects, programs, and services intended to the former rebels, that successfully led to its declaration as insurgency-free region.

For her part, Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña, OPAPRU director for Eastern Mindanao, stated that,  Kagawasan 143 will serve as a hub for community engagement, where FRs can come together in one setting to discuss and address local issues, share ideas, and build a stronger, more cohesive community.

She added that OPAPRU will closely collaborate with the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center so that there will be active support and engagement that will sustain the peace-building initiatives within the city, and the province of Agusan del Norte, inluding the particpation of grassroots organizations, local organizations, the academe, and other government agencies to promote conflict resolution and social harmony.

The establishment and inauguration of the Kagawasan 143 Peace Center represented a pivotal moment in OPAPRU Eastern Mindanao’s  ongoing efforts to foster unity, harmony, and stability in Caraga region.  

This endeavor, Lapiña said, is part of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU)'s Localized Peace Engagements Cluster's Transformation Program for the FRs, in close collaboration with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Apart from this, OPAPRU also vowed to transfer the amount of P5 million to initially fund the operations of the facility that will strengthen the implementation of the  OPAPRU’s priroity Transformation Program under the Localized Peace Engagement Cluster.

Transforming former rebels to Friends' Rescued

During the execution of the Transformation Program, a pivotal idea emerged on establishing a peace center in the province, with core objective that is to orchestrate a comprehensive and unified execution of the program's components, including their branding transformation from former rebels to friends rescued. 

“This orchestration aims to foster the enduring well-being of  FRs and bolster community resilience, thereby contributing to the resolution of local communist armed conflicts,” according to Lapiña.

She further explained that the peace center will assume the crucial roles of supervision, evaluation, execution, and monitoring of the Transformation Program. This comprehensive program is built on four major pillars namely,  security, confidence-building measures, healing and reconciliation, and socio-economic development.

“The Kagawasan 143 Peace Center stands as a testament to our collective commitment to building bridges of understanding and support for those who have chosen the path of peace and reconciliation, while also providing them with the necessary resources and opportunities to reintegrate into society successfully,” Lapiña added. 

Meanwhile, OPAPRU handed over 500 rice of sacks to friends rescued who are residing at the Halfway House Livelihood Training Center, Brgy. Bancasi in Butuan City. 

Other officials who attended the significant event were BGen. George L Banzon Jr., brigade commander of the 901st Brigade;  LTC Cresencio C Gargar , INF, battalion commander of the 29th Infantry Battalion; LTC Jeffrey P  Balingao , INF,  battalion commander of the 23rd  Infantry Battalion; and PCol. Filemon Pacios, provincial director of  PNP Agusan del Norte. (OPAPRU/PIA Agusan del Norte) 

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