PH gov’t: No new peace talks with MNLF
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—Government is committed to “find solutions to issues” bugging the full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) it inked with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996, but it will not tackle new ones that would precipitate fresh negotiations.
Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles stressed this point during the high-level meeting March 1 to 2 in Bandung, Indonesia, between government and the MNLF under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
The meeting sought to thresh out issues related to the parties’ respective compliance with the FPA.
In her opening address, a copy of which was given the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Deles cited that the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) itself recognized that the tripartite process’ aim “is not to renegotiate the agreement but rather to review its implementation…”
Earlier, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been negotiating for peace with the Philippine government, criticized the bringing up of the issues of power-sharing, wealth-sharing and territory in the review.
Apart from being “outside the competence of the FPA,” these are already in the official agenda of the MILF’s peace negotiations with government, according to the group that broke away from the MNLF in the 1970s.
“While we support the full implementation of the FPA, we cannot understand the wisdom of inputting new issues” into the review process, said an MILF statement.
The negotiation between government and the MNLF officially ended September 2, 1996, “which means that no new agenda will be discussed except those related to the implementation,” the MILF further noted.
Starting as a breakaway faction from the MNLF, the MILF is currently engaged in peace talks facilitated by Malaysia. The talks are already into the final phase.
The MILF has been saying that its peace formula seeks to deepen and widen the gains so far achieved for Moro self-governance.
According to a news release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the governors of five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) joined the government contingent in the Bandung meeting.
Also in the delegation were Representatives Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato and Sandra Sema of Maguindanao. Sacdalan and Sema are chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the House committee on peace, unity and reconciliation.
Deles said their presence was meant “to demonstrate the seriousness of government’s intent…to bring proper completion and closure to a process that has gone on for far too long.”
Deles explained that the current efforts to do institutional overhaul of the ARMM overseen by an interim leadership appointed by President Aquino have been in keeping with “an understanding” reached mid-2011 “to forge partnership between the government and the MNLF in pursuit of governance reform.”
A former MNLF fighter and woman leader, Bainon Karon, was appointed ARMM regional vice governor.
Deles noted that ARMM reforms “have drawn in and will continue to draw in more MNLF partisans, onto the straight path of public service exercised as a public trust.”
She expressed confidence that by the second half of the year, “the transformation that we are working to make happen in Muslim Mindanao” would have made an impact.
The review of the 1996 FPA is undertaken by the OIC’s Peace Committee for Southern Philippines chaired by Indonesia, which also brokered the pact.