April 14, 2024

In time for the commemoration of the 36th Mt. Data Peace Accord on Sept. 13, two governors led the signing of a peace covenant that will ensure a resolution to the ongoing boundary dispute between the indigenous peoples of Betwagan, Sadanga, Mountain Province and Butbut, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Called the “Mt. Data Peace Covenant of 2022”, the agreement was signed at the historic Mt. Data Hotel by Govs. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. of Mountain Province and James Edubba of Kalinga for the resolution of conflict and settlement of boundary disputes specifically between the IPs of Betwagan and Butbut, which spans five barangays in Tinglayan, Kalinga.

MP-KALINGA PEACE COVENANT — The provincial governments of Mountain Province led by Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Jr. and Kalinga led by Gov. James Edduba signed a peace covenant on Sept. 13 that will ensure both provinces would do its part to resolve the decades-old conflict between the indigenous peoples in Betwagan of Sadanga, Mountain Province and the Butbut in Tinglayan, Kalinga. The peace covenant was witnessed by the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., peace consultants Thomas Killip, MP Administrator Franklin Odsey, and Vice Chair of the Joint Evaluation and Monitoring Committee Andres Ngao-i at the historic Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province as part of the 36th commemoration of the Mt. Data Peace Accord. — Ofelia C. Empian

The governors committed to do the necessary actions to resolve the issue, especially using the indigenous way of settling disputes.

Lacwasansaid the peace covenant aims to ease tension at the boundary site. He saidtogether with the Kalinga LGU and ethnic groups involved, they have set schedules for the ongoing peace talks.

He said the peace covenant is symbolic since it is the second peace agreementto be signed at the Mt. Data Hotel after the 1986 peace accord between the national government led by then President Cory Aquino and the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) led by then Fr. Conrado Balweg.

Edubba said the elders and the local leaders of Butbut, who were present during the event, initially said they are willing to conduct the sipat (cessation of hostilities)ritual with Betwagan.

Leaders and elders of two conflicting areas earlier committed to implement a ceasefire agreement.

It has been two months since there were no reported incidents of violence between the IP groups and together with the ethnic groups involved, they are working on an extension of the ceasefire agreement.

Edubba said the ongoing rift between the ethnic groups spans over two decades and involves boundary dispute, intrusions, and unsolved killings on both sides, among other issues.    

Sadanga Mayor Adolf Ganggangan said both ethnic groups have their own stand on the issue, that is why the challenge is how to make them unite for a resolution.

He said with the peace covenant signed by the heads of provincial governments, he hopes the two ethnic groups would follow.

“What I observe is they are open for the peaceful resolution of the conflict; I think we are all tired of the conflict and the people just want to live peacefully. I always remind the people of Betwagan to resolve conflicts using tongtongan (talks) first and not violence,” Ganggangan said.

Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (Opapru) Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said his office will be following up with the involved indigenous groups in Kalinga and Mountain Province to ensure the boundary claim and other issues will be resolved.

“What’s important is that the covenant will be implemented down to the barangays involved so that no violence will happen during the peace process,” he said. He said he has already asked consultants, including retired general Ramon Yogyog and Gen. Bismarck Soliba, who are familiar with the terrain and people of the area, and OPAPRU Consultant for Cordillera Thomas Killip, for the ongoing peace process in the area. – Ofelia C. Empian