Manila, GenSan students trade peace shout-outs via videocon

A March 3, 2011 press release by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Thousands of students from Manila and General Santos City exchanged thoughts on peace and communication through a mass video-conference held on Tuesday.

Around 2,000 high school students gathered in Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-Manila and discussed topics about religious discrimination, peace talks, war and conflict, and information technology with some 3,000 youths assembled at the Lagao Gymnasium in General Santos City.

PeaceTech, a non-profit organization that promotes peace among the youth, spearheaded the video-conference dubbed as “Building Understanding through Technology: Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), together with the British Embassy, Department of Education, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and Ateneo de Manila University, partnered with PeaceTech to stage this event, which aimed to connect the youth in Manila and Mindanao.

Aside from open forum sessions, talks from different resource persons, and audience interactions, the students from Manila and General Santos also enjoyed exchanging peace shout-outs by writing short messages on whiteboards and papers then flashing them to the camera for the opposite end to read.

Some messages from Manila students include ‘let peace prevail;’ ‘Muslims, Christians, we are brothers;’ ‘Manila loves Mindanao;’ and ‘we have taken the risk of making war, let’s now take the chance of making peace.’

Quotes from General Santos City, on the other hand, included ‘make peace not war;’ ‘peace starts with ourselves;’ ‘let us spread the peace on Earth;’ and ‘always welcome kayo dito Manila people (you’re always welcome here, Manila people).’

Winning the peace

During an open forum session, one student from General Santos City posted a question on what could be a way to avoid conflict.

One of the resource speakers, Romanne Posadas, division chief of OPAPP Research, Policy, and Program Development Unit, responded by mentioning the government’s approach of “winning the peace.”

Posadas further explained that aside from peace talks, the government wants to win the peace by also giving focus on development efforts that complement the negotiations.

Currently, the government puts attention to PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or Peaceful and Resilient Communities), a peace and development program which is the framework for sustaining all on-going governance and development initiatives on the ground.

PAMANA promotes community resilience by reducing poverty; improving governance; and strengthening capacities of communities to support peace through social cohesion activities.

Pure energy for peace

UNICEF Ambassador Gary Valenciano also joined the event, offering a set of songs and giving inspirational messages to the students who participated.

“You yourselves can be a source of peace for your family and friends,” Valenciano said. “It gives me hope that because of you, you and your children will continue to have peace.”

Valenciano also noted that he was so encouraged seeing the students’ “youthful energy” and expressed his desire to give “more songs of peace to GenSan where peace is more needed, where conflict is nearer.”

OPAPP calls for youth support

Meanwhile, OPAPP also enjoined the video-conference participants to maximize the use of the Internet and technology to be involved in the country’s peace process.

OPAPP communication staff Jan Andrew Orocay encouraged the students to air their support for peace via the OPAPP website and blogsite, and the OPAPP official Twitter and Facebook page.

President Benigno Aquino III also promoted this cause during the “Light Up for Peace” event in the Quezon City Memorial Circle,urging the public, “makibalita, magbantay at makilahok sa usaping pangkapayapaan (be updated, remain vigilant, and take part in the issues of peace).”

Aquino also said, “Maliban sa website ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, bukas din ang kanilang Facebook at Twitter accounts para bigyan kayo ng napapanahon at makabuluhang balita sa mga usaping pangkapayapaan. Malaya ninyong maipapaalam dito ang inyong mga saloobin at mungkahi upang sama-sama nating itaguyod ang peace process (Aside from the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Proces, they also have Facebook and Twitter accounts to provide you with timely and relevant news as regards the peace talks. Through these channels, you can freely correspond with OPAPP and share your thoughts and suggestions, so that we may altogether spur the peace process.)”

Broadcast journalist Atom Araullo hosted the program in PUP while United Nations (UN) Ambassador Baicon Macaraya led the event in Lagao Gymnasium.