MANILA, SEPTEMBER 5, 2008 (MALACAÑANG) Expect President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to personally push her administration’s new paradigm on ending the decades-old Mindanao conflict and the communist insurgency by focusing on negotiations with the armed groups genuinely interested in peace, in a common cause with the affected communities and other stakeholders.

In a press conference this afternoon in Malacanang, Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza officially confirmed that the President had decided to cancel her trip to the United States, “stay home and attend to pressing matters. . . to be personally around as things are happening in Mindanao.”

The President was scheduled to address the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month to report to the world body on the progress of the Philippines’ anti-poverty framework and other issues related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Philippines has been a major beneficiary of the financial assistance of the Millennium Challenge Corp., a US government corporation working with some of the poorest countries in the world to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable growth.

The Philippines is in line to receive more substantial assistance from the MCC, thus the need for the President herself to present the country’s cause to the corporation.

Aside from personally leading efforts to refocus the government’s peace initiatives from negotiating with the armed groups alone to include the affected communities and other stakeholders, the President will also attend to other pressing matters, such as overseeing the implementation of priority development projects.

Aside from a scheduled visit next week to a dam project in Quirino province and a bridge in Isabela, the President’s itinerary is clogged with provincial sorties to monitor the status of government projects in the days ahead.

Dureza stressed that the cancellation of the President’s US trip has not, in any way, diminished the country’s resolve to support the MDGs set by the UN by 2015.

“The resolve continuous to be strong to meet the goals set by the Millennium Development Goals,” Dureza said.

The Philippines is on track to achieve the MDG targets on gender parity, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.

In pursuance of the government’s new peace negotiating tack, National Security Agency (NSA) Adviser Norberto Gonzales and other government officials will hold consultative meetings starting Sept. 16 with various stakeholders in Mindanao, particularly in the Zamboanga peninsula, to explore initiatives and mechanisms that would truly realize lasting peace and stability in the region.

Through the Local Peace and Security Assembly (LPSA), local government and sectoral leaders will be convened with a view to reaching an agreement on solutions to peace and security problems through an action agenda that they themselves would formulate and implement, taking into consideration the unique features of the locality, the NSA said. The action agenda is expected to be presented to the President at the close of this conference-workshop.

The LPSA is a continuing consultation drive at the regional level that was started since the middle of last year, primarily in response to the clamor of LGUs and local stakeholders for support to their various conflict-resolution and peace building initiatives. LPSAs has been conducted for Region 7 (in Tagbilaran City), CARAGA (Butuan City), Region 8 (Tacloban City), CALABARZON (San Pablo City), Region 5 (Masbate City), Region 11 (Tagum City), CAR (Bangued, Abra), Region 6 (Bacolod City) and Region 2 (Tuguegarao City).

Some 200 participants consisting of concerned members of the Cabinet, local government officials, including governors and city mayors, AFP and PNP commanders, as well as recognized leaders of civil society, business groups, religious institutions, lumads, and the academe, are expected to take part in the Zamboanga LPSA.

The President is also sending Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Gonzales to Kuala Lumpur to officially inform Malaysian officials about the Philippine government’s position on the dissolution of peace efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“May directives ang ating Pangulo that peace adviser Jun Esperon and Secretary Bert Gonzales would touch base with Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur,” Dureza said.

He said the main objective of Esperon’s and Gonzales’ visit to Kuala Lumpur is to formally relay and explain to Malaysian officials, who brokered the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), the President position on the present position of the Philippine government.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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