By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr., the Philippine Consul General to New York, said Saturday that in order to achieve peace and settle disputes in Southeast Asia, there is a need for countries to adhere to the rule of law.
“I think this is important. Countries need to be bound by something higher than themselves, and that is being mindful of international relations,” said de Leon in his acceptance appointment as Ambassador for Peace by the Universal Peace Federation-USA through its Office of Asian Affairs on March 28, 2015 in Mid-Manhattan.
De Leon led a set of appointees, composed of diplomatic officials, businessmen, and community leaders in the communities of Southeast Asian roots.
The Philippines has its share of territorial disputes that remains unresolved, including the Philippine claim to the Kalayaan group of islands versus China, and the Sabah territorial claims versus Malaysia, as well as government initiated peace efforts vis-a-vis the separatist movement in Muslim Mindanao.
In his acceptance speech, Ambassador de Leon stressed that he will do his best to instill peace in his jurisdiction, in line with the theme “Security and understanding in the South East Asian Region.”
Aside from New York, Ambassador de Leon’s has concurrent jurisdiction over the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Before he was assigned to New York, Consul General de Leon served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at the Philippine Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa from 2010-2011. De Leon graduated with honors a Bachelor of Arts in Social Psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University (1974). He attended the Ateneo School of Business for his MBA.
The Universal Peace Federation is a global network of individuals and organizations dedicated to building a world of peace, cooperation and prosperity. The OAA is a local expression of UPF’s peace effort in the east coast and is headed by Rev. Greg Agulan. It will hold peace dialogues in various cities in the US as well as a multi-cultural festival this year in order to forge local unity and understanding.
Filipino businessman and retired Columbia University professor Ismael Jampayas is also one the appointees. Jampayas had been a publisher of a Filipino newspaper based in New York.
“The ambassadors for peace are appointed by the UPF in order to localize peace efforts, starting from the homes and to communities, with the values on respect and cooperation as the main ingredients to achieve peace,” explained Rev. Agulan.
Agulan said that in achieving peace in the region, there had been two approaches in settling disputes: one is based on historical territorial claims backed by up treaties and the other approach is through sovereignty.
Agulan cited that the dispute over Mindanao in the Philippines until the 1950 was controlled by the Philippine Muslims. “In the 1950s, President Ferdinand Marcos began to send Christian Filipinos to settle in Mindanao. And by today they are the overwhelming majority in Mindanao.
Today, the Moro people, invoking sovereignty, demand the return of their ancestral land to gain autonomy from the rest of the Philippines.”
Founded by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church in 2005, UPF encourages all religions to conduct dialogues and work for peace based on the recognition that human dignity is derived from a universal divine source as the basis of harmony and unification. UPF is a non-government organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
UPF USA president Ricardo de Sena said that lasting peace cannot be achieved through political compromise alone, but requires addressing the root causes of conflict. “Transcending racial, religious and ethnic barriers is an imperative of our time. Faith can give people the power to forgive, and the love to overcome even generations of hatred, resentment and violence, ” he said invoking the 5 principles of peace of the UPF.
Esther Faith Batino, the UPF OAA executive secretary said that the formal launch of the OAA and the appointment of Ambassador de Leon is a great leap in the peace movement in the US. She said that her office is planning more innovative ways to unify the community with pursuits of cultural understanding as a way to peace. (Photos by Rev. Greg Agulan)