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Peace talks with MILF not going fast enough, gov’t laments

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05:20 AM January 13th, 2012

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By: Norman Bordadora, January 13th, 2012 05:20 AM

Chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen

The peace talks with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have moved forward but are not proceeding as fast as the government would like, according to the chief government negotiator after the close of the 24th “formal exploratory talks” in Malaysia last Wednesday.

“The government was earnest in moving towards the crafting of a peace agreement. That would have been the best move forward for both panels,” Marvic Leonen said in a statement, expressing concern over “the very slight movement in the negotiations.”

The talks “have inched forward but not fast enough,” he said.

Leonen and Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, did not reply to text queries on why the “slight” movement in the negotiations would be a cause for concern.

In his remarks at the end of the talks, Leonen said he went to Malaysia with a full delegation, including the panel members, secretariat and the heads of the government ceasefire mechanisms.

‘To achieve and resolve’

“We have laid our cards on the table… We want to achieve and resolve as many of the outstanding issues as possible,” he said.

“We have mentioned principled, just, political opportunities and strong foundations for a long-standing solution to the Bangsamoro question during the negotiations as government’s firm commitment to the peace process,” he said.

In a joint statement, the government and MILF peace panels said the latest round of talks in Kuala Lumpur had paved the way for “constructive discussions on substantive issues.”

“Among the issues initially discussed were the concept of governance and the listing of reserved powers of the national government, as contained in their respective drafts,” read the joint statement signed by Leonen and his rebel counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal.

“Both parties clarified their positions, tentatively identified areas of common ground and agreed to consult with their principals on outstanding issues. They also considered drafting road maps towards a resolution of the Bangsamoro question,” the statement read.

Leonen said the Aquino administration would be intensifying the implementation of reforms in the Autonomous Region in

Muslim Mindanao while it waits for substantial developments in trying to reach an agreement with the MILF.

“While the negotiations are ongoing, the government will go full blast with its other option—continuing the transformation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

The government and the rebels agreed to meet again in February for the next round of negotiations.

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