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Saturday, 15 April 2000

Ople proposes Peace Corps

Senate President Pro Tempore Blas Ople sought yesterday the formation of a volunteer peace corps for Mindanao that would help the government provide health and education services to those affected by the armed conflict.

Ople, incoming chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, made the proposal as he noted that the delivery of basic social services to Mindanaoan children was derailed by the war in the region.

"The volunteer peace corps should be allowed to work in vilages directly affected by the prolonged conflict in Muslim Mindanao," he said.

He said the peace corps, to be comprised of parents, professionals, students, doctors and retired teachers, should be initiated by four government agencies led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"International donor communities would be more than willing to help the peace corps reach out to Filipinos, especially the women and children, who are directly affected by the prolonged conflict in Muslim Mindanao," he added.

Ople said that the United Nations (UN) has six agencies that can help the volunteer peace corps for Mindanao. Among these are the United Nation Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nation International Children Fund, United Nation Population Fund, and the International Organization for Migration.

The former Senate chief aired his proposal after attending the MNLF Executive Forum on the Community Enterprise System sponsored by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The ILO project was designed to support the peace and development initiatives in the Southern Philippines and covers the Special Zone for Peace and Development in Mindanao.

"Its primary objectives include providing MNLF members with vocational skills for potential employment or self-employment," Ople added.

The conference was attended by Eleanor Roida Misuari, wife of Chairman Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and who chairs the Bangsa Moro Women's Foundation actively involved in a livelihood and training project in the region. (Ferdie J. Maglalang)

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