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(Left) Secretary Silvestre Bello III addresses the Filipinos of Milan and Northern Italy; (Right) Filipinos from Milan and various regions of Northern Italy gather to listen to Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Head of GRP Panel for talks with CPP/NPA/NDF

The Philippine Consulate General in Milan, in collaboration with OFW Watch Italy, conducted a peace forum with Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, concurrent GRP Panel Chair for Peace Negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, at the renowned Centro Ambrosiano on 22 January 2017. The forum, which was covered by the media, was attended by more than 300 leaders, members, and representatives of various Filipino Community organizations in Milan and Northern Italy.

Consul General Marichu Mauro referred to the peace forum as a groundbreaking event, being the first of its kind to be held in Milan since the establishment of the Consulate in 1995. She conveyed to Secretary Bello the importance of all overseas Filipinos being stakeholders in the “bigger table” of the peace process.

Secretary Bello thanked the Philippine Consulate in Milan and the various Filipino associations for organizing the event, and conveyed the assurances of President Rodrigo Duterte to all overseas Filipinos to streamline the procedure in obtaining travel documents, and establish an OFW Bank to handle the remittances of overseas workers. Secretary Bello discussed the ongoing third round of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, and emphasized the objective of eliminating the root causes of conflicts in the Philippines.

Secretary Bello heard the issues affecting Filipino migrant workers in Milan and Northern Italy, including OWWA membership and social security benefits, and pledged the support of President Duterte and his administration emphasizing that the welfare of overseas Filipinos is first and foremost in the President’s policy.

Secretary Bello said the government was optimistic about the forging of a joint ceasefire agreement with the rebels and reaching a consensus on the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms. He urged overseas Filipinos to support the ongoing peace negotiations by becoming more aware of developments and help push the talks towards its successful conclusion.

Joining Secretary Bello during the Peace Forum were GRP Panel Members, Atty. Angela Trinidad and Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, Director Jesus Cruz of DOLE, and Acting Labor Attaché and OWWA Officer Jocelyn Hapal. END