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Wealth sharing at heart of gov’t-MILF stalemate

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MANILA, Philippines—The secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the resumption of peace negotiations in July hinges on whether or not Malacañang’s proposals on wealth-sharing between the autonomous Bangsamoro region and the government would be acceptable to it.

“We still have to look at the papers they gave us…. If we find it right, we may have a meeting. But at this point in time, nothing is fixed yet,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Inquirer by phone.

Negotiations brokered by Malaysia hit a snag when Malacañang requested a “review” of the wealth sharing annex initialled by the peace negotiators.

The government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, announced Friday that she had submitted the government’s full proposals on the wealth-sharing issue to the MILF and that formal talks would resume in July.

But Iqbal said the peace negotiations would continue to be at a stalemate until they have another formal round of talks.

“We will not respond  except in a formal setting; nothing has changed yet,” Iqbal said, referring to the status of the talks.

Asked if the MILF’s trust in President Benigno Aquino remains, Iqbal answered in the affirmative but qualified his statement. “Our feeling is he can still deliver. He said that time and again. The trust is still there but that trust is contingent on the delivery of what has been agreed upon. It is not an absolute trust.”

But Iqbal reiterated that the MILF position was still to “stick to the February 27 (wealth sharing) document” that was initialed by the two panels.

An Inquirer  source privy to the negotiations said the MILF was not likely to agree to a 50-50 percent wealth sharing with the central government, more so if it went below 50 percent.

The source asked for anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss details of the annexes to the draft peace accord between the government and the MILF but was willing to share some details with the Inquirer to provide a clear view of what the controversy over the wealth sharing annex was all about.

The source said the initialed wealth sharing annex indicated “something like a 75-25 percent across the board”, in favor of the MILF.

The source said the MILF believes that the new Bangsamoro entity must have a bigger share than the central government because the resources would come from Mindanao itself.

“That share is for the development of Mindanao. For the MILF, it is legally and morally right for them to demand that (percentage of sharing),” the source said.

The source expressed belief that the MILF was not likely to “agree to revisiting the wealth-sharing annex unless it would be reasonable.”

Asked what would be reasonable to the MILF, the source said: “As long as it will not downgrade so much the MILF’s interest here. I don’t know if they can go below 50 percent.”

Asked if indeed the MILF would not go lower than a 50 percent share, Iqbal declined to comment.

“We are looking at the whole package,” Iqbal said.


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Tags: MILF , Mindanao , Moro Islamic Liberation Front , peace process , Wealth Sharing




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