Latest Stories

Palace on Moro economic dev’t: Gov’t won’t be distracted by Sabah standoff


Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras: No distraction. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The government won’t be distracted by the standoff in Sabah, Malaysia, from implementing its socioeconomic development program in Moro rebel communities in Mindanao, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said on Wednesday.

Almendras acknowledged that some groups were unhappy with the government program to rehabilitate and develop Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities preparatory to the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement.

Of course, everything that we’re trying to do, clearly there are people who are also not happy with it,” Almendras told reporters in Cebu in an interview aired over government-run radio.

The standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of armed Filipinos from Sulu in Lahad Datu town in Sabah is seen by some people as an attempt to derail the signing of a final peace agreement between the government and the MILF by March.

The armed followers of a descendant of the sultan of Sulu refuse to leave Sabah, claiming that the eastern Malaysian state is their “homeland.”

Final peace pact

The government and the MILF hoped to seal a final agreement before the end of March following a series of crucial talks facilitated by the Malaysian government.

Despite the Sabah standoff, Almendras said the implementation of the socioeconomic program, called Sajahatra Bangsamoro, in MILF communities in the next 18 months would proceed as planned.

“My instructions were very clear: Pursue the peace process in the best way we can, to push whatever development we can do there, so we intend to do that,” he said.

In fact, Almendras said, the Cabinet is now planning the next phases of Sajahatra Bangsamoro, and both panels would discuss the implementation in their talks in Kuala Lumpur.

New task force

The President has designated Almendras as chairman of the newly created multidepartment Task Force on Bangsamoro Development to implement the socioeconomic program in MILF communities.

Aquino launched the program inside the MILF stronghold in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, on Feb. 10 by giving away health insurance cards, and certificates of scholarship and livelihood training to family members of the 12,000-strong MILF.

On reports that the sultanate of Sulu had been left out of the negotiations with the MILF, Almendras said he believed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had always been “open” to talk with any party.

“[W]e’re willing to talk,” he said.

Going on their own

Statements from MILF officials that the future Bangsamoro government will not pursue the Sabah claim may have caused the Sulu sultan to send his followers to Sabah and occupy the land.

Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF’s committee on information, said at a recent forum in Zamboanga City on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that a relative of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III had asked the MILF representative about the rebel group’s policy on the territorial issue.

“The answer was, we want to preserve it but we will not revive it,” Musa said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Tuesday.

He said the MILF later sought to clarify the answer but the Sulu sultan was obviously hurt and decided to pursue his clan’s claim to Sabah on his own.

The sultanate, which has become obscure to people outside of Sulu, continues to command respect among locals there and most people still recognize its leaders’ authority, Musa said.

“We have reached out to them. We did this on several occasions,” he said.

Sultanate recognized

Musa said the MILF had told the sultan through emissaries that the rebel group continued to recognize the sultanate as part of Moro history and heritage.

“It is even one of the bases of our assertion of the Moro right to self-determination,” Musa said.

The MILF, he added, has repeatedly told the Sulu sultan that the MILF respects the sultanate’s claim to Sabah and that the MILF will not stand in the way of that claim.

But the MILF, Musa added, has also told the Sulu sultan that it would not initiate moves to revive the claim when the Bangsamoro government starts to function.—With reports from Jeffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala and Allan Naval, Inquirer Mindanao

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Government , Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) , Moro rebels , peace process , Philippines , Rene Almendras , Sabah standoff

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  2. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  3. In the know: Gigi Reyes
  4. SC suspends proctor in 2011 bar exams
  5. Senator Pimentel backs German think tank’s stand vs dynasties
  6. Bar proctor suspended for photographing test papers
  7. Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
  8. Meteor shower to light up PH skies
  9. What Went Before: Enrile denies Gigi Reyes was ‘other woman’
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  8. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  9. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Fire sweeps through slum area in Caloocan City
  • Militants kill 14 Algerian soldiers in ambush
  • Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter
  • 4 French journalists freed from Syria captors home
  • Thousands celebrate Easter in Holy Land
  • Sports

  • Red-hot Alaska rips injury-depleted San Mig Coffee
  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Warriors beat Clippers in playoff opener
  • Lifestyle

  • Angono petroglyphs in danger of disappearing
  • Britain’s baby Prince George visits Australian zoo
  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Marketplace