MANILA, Philippines – Ending four decades of secessionist war by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front remains a top priority of the Aquino administration but the President has to exercise “due care and utmost diligence” in bridging the differences that remain between the two sides in the negotiations, two administration officials said Saturday.
Responding to MILF’s frustration over the pace of the peace process, Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas said told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the peace agreement “remains among the highest priorities of P-Noy and his government” and that the President met with “his team on this matter for three hours” this week.
“Many of the items have generational and very broad implications, and accordingly ‘unintended consequences’ are not good. Thus, P-Noy [Benigno Aquino III’s nickname] is exercising due care and utmost diligence on these matters,” said Roxas, alluding to the peace agreement’s annexes on wealth-sharing and power- sharing between the national government and soon-to-be-created autonomous Bangsamoro territory and the “normalization” or disarmament of MILF troops.
Roxas made the comment when asked what he thought of MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s complaint that the negotiations had reached a “stalemate.”
Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said on Friday that the MILF’s field commanders were “slowly losing faith” in the peace process.
“They are angry because they have been waiting for a long time. As far as I am concerned, this is not a very good situation,” Jaafar said, pointing to what he called “the erosion of confidence and trust in the Philippine government that it is really decided to address the Bangsamoro issue.”
|Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang echoed Roxas’ optimism that the disagreements over the contents and phraseology of the proposed peace accord would be resolved soon.
“We are doing our best to bridge the differences that remain between the two sides. The President remains committed to a fair and lasting peace through the ongoing process,” Carandang said in a text message.
He begged off from disclosing the proposed amendments being sought by the government that seemed to have triggered the latest impasse.
“I can’t go into detail about what the MILF wants right now. This is already a sensitive phase of the talks,” Carandang said.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over government-run Radyo ng Bayan that the Palace found nothing wrong with both sides missing the target date for the signing of a final peace pact.
Valte said both panels needed more time to thresh out the three remaining annexes (on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization) which, she said, were sensitive in nature.
“And of course, it is in everybody’s interest to sit down and go over the contents of these annexes,” Valte said. “Again, we’re hoping to see a resolution to this and we’re hoping for a way forward for the three annexes that are left.”
“Hopefully the remaining concerns could be addressed, and like what the President said, there are remaining issues that are somewhat complex and need more time to be threshed out,” she added.
She declined to give away details on the government’s position on wealth-sharing, preferring to wait for both panels to discuss them in public.