Gov’t, MILF negotiators begin haggling over 4 annexes

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08:34 PM January 21st, 2013

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By: Ryan D. Rosauro, January 21st, 2013 08:34 PM

OZAMIZ CITY—Expect emotions to be ruffled.

This was how government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer viewed the 35th exploratory meeting between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels, which started Monday in Kuala Lumpur.

The five-day meeting aims to flesh out the remaining details of four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro—power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional modalities.

The preliminary pact and the four annexes will comprise the comprehensive agreement that effectively addresses the Moro people’s aspiration for

self-governance that has underpinned close to four decades of rebellion in Mindanao.

“Expect that we will get worked up in the minutest details. Expect that we will once again tangle with words and ruffle emotions,” Ferrer said in an opening statement.

A day earlier, she noted that “much work is still needed to find a middle ground on certain core issues,” although she said she was confident “both parties are open to consider options on the remaining difficulties.”

Ferrer outlined the remaining issues as pertaining to “jurisdiction over natural resources, transportation and communication, the extent of territorial waters, taxing powers, timetables for decommissioning and demilitarization, policing structures and the transition authority.”

Speaking to members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines last week before flying to Kuala Lumpur, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the peace process “is passing through a difficult moment.”

Discussions on the four annexes “contain very contentious issues that both parties never expected to get pass through them so easily,” Iqbal said.

But he added that he hoped at least one of the annexes, “most likely [transitional] modalities and arrangement,” would be completed and signed during the current meeting.

Iqbal noted, during the one-month break, the parties “made tremendous preparations… to study and understand the complexities of the issues at hand in their earnest desire to resolve the remaining issues on the table.”

In a statement on its website, Abdullah Mantawil, chief of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said that during the current meeting, the parties may also consider extending the annual mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which will end on March.

Principally, the Malaysian-led IMT oversees implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

“Our task is to assist the President in realizing his vision of peace and progress for Mindanao, where the MILF is a trustworthy partner… After the annexes, the ride will even be rougher. But, insha Allah, we will get going,” Ferrer stressed.

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