Manila, April 20, 2003 -- Muslim political and appointed leaders as well as
those from the various sectors of the country's Islamic Ummah or community
are set to meet on April 23-24 to tackle and address issues confronting the
Bangsamoro people.

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin, House deputy speaker for Mindanao, said over
400 delegates composed of governors, congressmen, mayors, heads of
non-governmental organizations, religious, professional, women, youth
sectors, and even the revolutionary groups will be represented in the summit.

Salapuddin, main organizer of the first national summit, said the objective
for inviting all sectors in the Muslim Ummah is to come up with a
definitive output on how to address different issues and help the
government in nation-building, reconciliation, more particularly in the
search for peace in Mindanao.

"I realize the best way to attain our goals for the improvement of the
lives of our people is to work within the government," Salapuddin said.

"This is one of the reasons for this idea of a national Muslim leaders'
forum, when I am no longer a deputy speaker or congressman, at least the
basis for unity have been laid down," he added.

Salapuddin, Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong and Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Parouk Hussin co-chair the two-day affair to be
held at the Manila Midtown Hotel in Ermita, Manila.

Datumanong cited the coming event's significance. "This is an opportune
time to hold this kind of meeting of Muslim leaders so they can help the
government in solving various problems, not just of the Muslim community,"
Datumanong said. "This represents a concerted effort of Muslims to help the
government in achieving peace so development can take place."

Sultan Macapanton Abbas Jr. is expected to play a key role, among many
leaders, in the event designed to pave the way for the unity of Muslims in
the Philippines and eventually come up with one voice on every national
issue or problem.

To be taken up, Salapuddin said, are the peace accord between the
government and the Moro National Liberation Front MNLF; stand of Muslims on
the proposed Charter change; the need for the national government to be
consistent in its policy towards Muslims; effective governance;
stereotyping and profiling of Muslims and Arabs; proposed recommendation on
detained MNLF leader Nur Misuari; status and prospects of ARMM; status and
prospects of madaris; the state of the peace talksbetween the government
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and other pressing issues.

Salapuddin commended the enthusiatic response of Muslim leaders who are
also contributing their personal resources to finance the summit. (By Edd
K. Usman, Bulletin)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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