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Gov’t, MILF peace panels discuss trust fund for combatants, war victims

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08:53 PM November 18th, 2012

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November 18th, 2012 08:53 PM

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal: Human security for the Bangsamoro communities. AP FILE PHOTO

KUALA LUMPUR—The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are now discussing the proposed “trust fund” to help combatants and others affected by the war normalize their lives, according to the head of the MILF panel.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer at the close of the 33rd round of peace negotiations here Saturday, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal intimated this was one of several “unresolved issues” that the two panels would tackle—hopefully before the end of 2012.

“The first part of normalization is economic action on the ground so that people, our combatants, would feel that there is a peace dividend after signing the framework agreement. So necessarily, the trust fund is connected with that socioeconomic action on the ground,” he explained.

Aside from defining the trust fund, Iqbal said the parties needed to identify “where to source the money that would be put in the trust fund.”

“I think it (government) is willing to put up some money for the initial movement towards providing some assistance, rehabilitation and relief of people who suffered in the conflict, including the combatants of the MILF,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal pointed to the need to flesh out details of the trust fund in his remarks at the opening of this latest round of peace negotiations last week.

“There is mention of a trust fund in the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro. There is a need for us to define what we mean by ‘trust fund.’ How do we go about this trust fund?” Iqbal said.

The Bangsamoro is envisioned to be the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

President Aquino has described the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”

The goal of normalization, which includes the decommissioning of the arms and the forces of the MILF, is to achieve human security for the Bangsamoro communities affected by the decades-long war and to help them return to their “normal” lives, according to Iqbal.

In their closing remarks last Saturday, Iqbal and government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen acknowledged several issues still to be ironed out in three annexes to the Framework Agreement. These annexes deal with wealth sharing, power sharing and normalization.

“The remaining issues are still so many and very hard but with (the) determination and commitment of both parties, I think we will be able to overcome a lot of issues,” Iqbal said.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Abd Ghafar Tengku Mohammed was optimistic the two panels would be able to complete their tasks “very soon.”

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