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Peace negotiator appeals for continued public support to talks with MILF

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Miriam Coronel-Ferrer File Photo

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines– “Please keep the faith with us in this process.”

This was the appeal made by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer amid the ongoing siege of Zamboanga City, which has raised questions about how inclusive the Mindanao peace process has been.

The standoff between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces loyal to its founder, Nur Misuari, stemmed from the latter’s perception they were left out in the process of building the future Bangsamoro political entity.

The MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with government in 1996. A tripartite review of its implementation that started in 2007 found that the implementation of the agreement could be improved.

In March 2012, representatives of government, the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which were doing the review came up with “42 consensus points” on how to enhance the FPA implementation.

“The sufferings of the people of Zamboanga City have been at the backs of our minds since we met on Day One of the 40th Formal Exploratory Talks on September 10,” Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

The siege of Zamboanga started early morning of Sept. 9, on the eve of the start of the 40th round of talks in Kuala Lumpur, which was scheduled for 10 days. The talks were extended for a day on Friday to give way to further discussions on the two remaining annexes on power-sharing and normalization.

In a joint statement on Friday, the parties said they welcomed “the gradual return to normalcy in the lives of the people of Zamboanga City.”

“The Parties acknowledge the challenge before them to ensure that the peace process between the Government and the MILF should make a lasting contribution to the task of building peace and understanding among all peoples in Mindanao,” the joint statement read.

“Despite the gravity and difficulty of the issues, there was progress in the discussions. The Parties remain committed to finding creative solutions to finish the remaining annexes and resolve to forge a comprehensive peace pact that will be inclusive of the interests and welfare of all Bangsamoro,” it further said.

“We have always been aware that our problems in Mindanao are complex. We have said time and again that although we– the Government Negotiating Panel for Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) —are talking to only one party among the many interested parties in Mindanao, we have consciously tried to ensure that both the processes and the outcomes will benefit all,” Coronel-Ferrer stressed.

She revealed that achieving inclusion has been part of the marching orders to the peace panel as contained in the October 7, 2010 Memorandum of Instruction issued by President Benigno Aquino III to then panel chair Marvic Leonen, now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Coronel-Ferrer said that under the Aquino administration, the negotiations with the MILF is guided by “the Philippine Constitution, inclusive of the flexibilities therein; lessons learned from past negotiations; government’s ability to deliver its commitments; and inclusiveness and transparency in order to restore public trust and confidence in the peace process.”

She explained that the end goal of the negotiation with the MILF “is to produce a new set of government institutions that will fall under the rubric of a Bangsamoro Government that is part and parcel of the Philippine Republic.”

“To get there, we have to create mechanisms that will effectively implement the agreements and bring everyone on board every step of the way. These new mechanisms and institutions must be truly representative of the diversity of the populace. They must be strong in order to be responsive not to the machinations of one group, but in order to serve the people better,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

“The new institutions must allow for all taking the path to peace to participate, and isolate those who continue to hold on to violence as the way of life or mode of politics. They must reward those who respect the rule of law, and punish those who transgress,” she added.

“Peace dividends, after all, are not spoils of war. They are meant for everyone, not booty that goes only to the negotiating parties,” she emphasized.


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Tags: Armed conflict , Insurgency , Miriam Coronel-Ferrer , Moro Islamic Liberation Front , Moro National Liberation Front , News , peace negotiations , peace process , Peace Talks , rebellion Moro rebellion , Regions




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