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Gov’t, MILF say talks moving forward

/ 09:26 PM December 12, 2011

DAVAO CITY—“We have moved forward.”

This was the declaration of both of the chief negotiators of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after a three-day full-panel meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week.

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“I agree with my (MILF) counterpart that we have moved forward,” Marvic Leonen, chief government negotiator, was quoted as saying in a news release of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“The exchange between the two parties … has been frank, cordial and very professional,” Leonen added.

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Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, noted in a statement that “the talks have moved forward” although he acknowledged that there was still a long way to go.

“(The) hard and prolonged discussions … are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

As the three-day talks in the Malaysian capital winded up, the parties announced that they continued “discussions on the substantive points for purposes of crafting a framework agreement” on December 5-7.

They resumed talks after a three-month hiatus prompted by what they perceived to be a wide gap between their respective formulations of a political settlement.

The OPAPP release quoted Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed as saying that with the recent developments in the talks, he was “see[ing] some light [and] progress towards achieving real and lasting peace.”

“It is only the unwillingness or insincerity of either of the two parties to solve these problems that can deter them from succeeding,” Iqbal said at the opening rites.

He noted that the issues in the negotiations were already put on the table, hastening the process of crafting a political settlement. “Nothing is hidden anymore from both sides,” he said.

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The joint communiqué issued at the end of the talks set the next meeting for January 2012 “for the continuation of discussions on the substantive issues” of the peace negotiations. This schedule cuts short by a month the span between each meeting, signaling that the negotiation for a mutually acceptable peace formula is picking up speed.

The government panel earlier expressed preference to have the negotiations concluded by the first quarter of next year, or about a year after the administration of President Benigno Aquino III began peace talks with the MILF.

The short communiqué also said the panels had been mainly focused on producing a formula for political settlement and not so much on side issues as in the past.

At least two of the four past meetings of the panels spent considerable time in discussing the breakaway of field commander Ameril Umbra Kato from the MILF.

Iqbal reiterated that the MILF “has no option to secede by agreeing to settle for real self-governance in the Bangsamoro state, which is still within the larger Philippine state.”

“… Government must put real premium to this by seriously putting forward a proposal that truly plays justice to this goodwill and sacrifice of the MILF,” he stressed.

“It is time the government stop thinking of solving the conflict in Mindanao by attempting to integrate the Moros into the national body politic,” Iqbal said.

“The Moro aspiration for a separate identity and territorial autonomy are as strong as ever. This will not die down; it will consolidate and harden as years pile up,” he added.

Leonen said, “We have laid our cards on the table. We agree with the MILF that any partnership should be sought at the soonest possible time to real autonomy.”

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TAGS: Government, Marvic Leonen, Mindanao peace process, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Peace Talks, Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed
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