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PIA Press Release
2006/12/01

PGMA lauds Bishops-Ulama's role in promoting interfaith dialogue as means to protect community

DAVAO CITY (1 December) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded last night the members of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC) for their pioneering efforts at introducing interfaith dialogue as an instrument in protecting the community from extremism, particularly in Mindanao.

"We are gathered here once more to celebrate interfaith dialogue and solidarity at this crucial time in our national life. I am proud to say that it was the Bishops-Ulama Conference who pioneered interfaith dialogue as an instrument in defending the national community against extremism," the President said in her speech keynoting the BUC's 10th Anniversary and 30th General Assembly at the Marco Polo Hotel here.

"At a time when nobody in the world was giving much attention to interfaith dialogue, the Bishops-Ulama Conference was already doing pioneering work in building interfaith dialogues in the communities all over Mindanao -- from the urban centers of Davao to the farthest villages of the island provinces like Tawi-Tawi," the President added.

According to her, the "cooperation and understanding" of the BUC is an important key in "moving the country forward."

"Your cooperation and understanding are key in moving our country forward, in strengthening the spiritual and moral fiber of our society, in sustaining the spirit of enterprise among our people, in keeping our guard against terror, destabilization and in bringing peace to Mindanao and in guiding us towards the preferential option for the poor," the President stressed.

She noted that due to the BUC's pioneering efforts, "interfaith dialogue appeared in the agenda of major regional and international bodies such as the United Nations and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)."

In her speech, the President also announced with pride that when the country hosts the 12th ASEAN Summit this December in Cebu, heads of state and delegates from the other ASEAN member countries, its dialogue partners, and the world will be treated to a "new Philippines complete with rosy" economic indicators.

"Inflation is easing, we have higher dollar reserves, the market is bullish. We have a strong peso, OFWs (Oversees Filipino Workers) remittances are increasing, the interest rate is low, investment inflows are increasing. The image of the country as an investment destination is improving as evidenced by rising Makati rentals on strong demand," the President said.

She added that her government is focusing also at increasing the social payback to the people of "economic reforms in terms of more infrastructure, schools, health facilities, food security and broader access to small enterprise loans."

In the same speech, the President also disputed her detractor's statements that the improved economic indicators were brought about by the advent of the Christmas season when most OFWs send their earnings to their families.

"They say it's because it's Christmas, but that means we've had Christmas the whole year round," the President said.

The BUC was established in November 1996 as an "advisable and necessary external advisory body" that helped in the planning and implementation of the 1996 peace accord signed between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) led by then President Fidel Ramos and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chaired by Nur Misuari.

It is composed of religious leaders of Mindanao belonging to the Catholic and Islamic faiths. Its main objective is to promote the correct understanding of the Christian and Islamic faiths which teach and impart common moral and spiritual values that are considered indispensable elements of justice and peace as well as of progress and development.

In a joint statement released last September, the BUC renewed its call on members of the peace panels of the GRP and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to return to the negotiating table and come up with a fair solution to the impasse currently stalling the peace talks.

The BUC has also offered its services in searching for the "wisdom and insight" needed to break the impasse. (PIA) [top]

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