STRENGTHENING YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN PEACE-BUILDING
The country’s quest for a lasting peace has been stalled by violence, conflict, and a myriad of security challenges. The communist insurgency has lasted for over five decades with peace negotiations that were of little to no avail due to the relentless launching of hostilities against government troops and the mounting disagreements between the two Parties. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), on the other hand, has been ruthlessly launching terror attacks from the Jolo Cathedral bombing in January 2019 to the recent bomb attacks on 24 August 2020 that killed 14 innocent people and injured 75 others.
Peace Initiatives of the Government
Government efforts remain unchanged – peace and security policies are all geared towards convincing insurgents and terrorists to abandon the armed struggle, rejoin mainstream Philippine society and engage in peace negotiations. Beyond the peace process, the government also adopts socio-economic programs in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas by building a culture of peace and conflict sensitivity under the six-point Peace and Development Agenda of the Duterte Administration. A National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was created to implement an efficient mechanism and structure for the whole-of-nation approach to realize the aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace. Likewise, the Task Force Balik-Loob was also created as a coordinating body that supervises the government’s reintegration efforts for rebel returnees and their family members. One young former rebel who availed of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program is now set to graduate from Senior High School this year and is bound to pursue college.
Role of the Youth in Peace-Building
Cognizant of the youth’s vulnerability to radicalization, the National Youth Commission, through the Philippine Youth Development Plan, supports youth participation in the peace process and ensures their access to education and economic opportunities. Grassroots social initiatives are also deemed important to prevent the rise of terrorism, especially among youth. More importantly, the Commission emphasizes the need to institutionalize peace education and inculcate discipline through a mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program in academic institutions. Likewise, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process introduced the Youth Peace Table which recognizes youth leaders as agents of peace and partners of the government in putting an end to the decades-long communist rebellion and terrorism.
As young people tend to be easily enticed to extreme ideologies, it is crucial for the youth to be wary on organizations that promote division, hate and violence. Being critical on social issues remains to be a civic responsibility, but our actions should always be anchored on the principles of peace, justice, and mutual respect. While conflict may be inevitable in every society, there are still countless ways of address security challenges without resorting to cruelty and terror. Consistent with our advocacy to strengthen youth participation in peace-building and security, the will of the Filipino youth must be loud and clear: “end violent extremism and armed rebellion; peace is the solution.”
 (04 January 2020) Former rebel to graduate from senior high, plans to pursue college. Retrieved on 27 August 2020 www.tfbalikloob.gov.ph