Cotabato City, May 31 – Members of the Bantay Ceasefire volunteers, grassroots monitors of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, joined the 36-kilometer ride “Bike for Peace” from Cotabato City to Nuro, North Upi last May 29, 2011 sponsored by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
The first ever Bike for Peace outside Manila aims to create an event that will mobilize news makers to get involved in the peace process. An event that will inspire the Filipino people and show them that what may seem to be improbable is possible. This is to relate to all stakeholders on the ground that there is an ongoing talks and the government is really sincere to have politically negotiated settlement with the MILF.
The unwavering bikers took off courageously early in the cloudy morning from the Cotabato City hall at Malagapas. Cold wind of the morning contributed much as the persistent bikers pedaled their bikes. The toilsome and crooked road were not even an obstacle for them to reach the finish line. Along their way, there were six pit stops such as the Tenorio Public School, CAFGU Detachment, Datu Andong Public School, Katiguesen Public School, Kibleg Upi Shariff School, Upi Agricultural School and Upi Municipal Gymnasium as the finish line where plenty of bananas, mineral waters and some energy drinks were offered to avoid severe dehydration.
At the gymnasium, everyone was inspired by the warm acceptance of the people of Upi. In his speech, Dean Marvic Leonen quoted as saying his analogy in the ongoing peace talks: “Peace negotiation is not easy, like biking which you need preparation first. You must have perseverance, endurance and strong determination to reach your aim the finish line as your goal (final agreement).
In an interview with Wendell Orbeso, a Peace Program Officer-5 of the GPH Peace Panel Secretariat for the talks with MILF said this is the first time Bike for Peace outside Manila and he described the event as very successful. “Ang sarap ng feeling eh na parang makita mo yung enthusiasm ng mga bikers na matapos. All and all it exceeds our expectations. As what I have mentioned, 490 bikers have confirmed the night before but more than 600 bikers participated” he said.
Mahmod M. Tulino, MPC Bantay Ceasefire Provincial Coordinator of Maguindanao, told in an interview that the event was good. It strengthens everyone and serves as an awareness as well. “Ito ay isang pamamaraan para makumbinse ang mga tao sa paligid na tumulong sa pagsulong ng peace process para maiwasan ang nangyari sa MOA-AD” he disclosed. “Kumbaga sa nakita nila na maraming sumali, yung matigas ang puso ay seguradong lalambot at makisali na sa pagpasulong ng usaping pangkapayapaan” he added. He observed the full support of the government forces in the event with several troops posted along the highway from Cotabato City until Upi to assure the security of the participating individuals.
An estimate of 600 bikers and motorcyclists excluding those in the vehicles and civil society organizations participated in the said event. Among the list were: Government Peace Negotiating Panel for Talks with the MILF (GPNP-MILF) headed by Dean Marvic Leonen; Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) headed by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles; International Monitoring Team (IMT-6), headed by MGen. Datok Mahdi bin Yusof; IMT-HoM, Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) under the leadership of GPH-CCCH Chairman BGen. Ariel B. Bernardo; AFP Peace Process Office (AFP-PPO) under Col. Dickson Hermoso -AFP-PPO Head; Malaysian Embassy (Davao Consulate) headed by Consul General Mohammad Azhar Mazlan; Mr. Ednar G. Dayanghirang form the Government Peace Negotiating Panel for the talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF (GPNP-CNN); Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP); Initiative for International Dialogue (IID) with 4 bikers, 5 from Upi Bikers; PNP-Civil Security Group (PNP-CSG) with 8 bikers, EastMinCom under Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero-Commander, EASTMINCOM, with 54 bikers; 6th Infantry Division (6ID) with 82 bikers; Cotabato Off-Road Enthusiast (CORE) with 300 bikers; Karancho who served as marshalls with 52 motorcyclist; 9 motorcyclists form MPC Bantay Ceasefire, and many more.