‘This is it’: MILF peace deal signing on Thursday | Inquirer News
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‘This is it’: MILF peace deal signing on Thursday

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—“This is it.”

“As far as what is possible without making false promises, this is it, and we continue to hope that the entire Bangsamoro will see it that way as well,” Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, said on the eve of the signing of a peace agreement with the bigger Muslim insurgent movements in Mindanao.

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The stage is set for the signing Thursday of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), a five-page document representing the final peace accord between the government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Deles is optimistic that the agreement with the MILF will lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.

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“I think we have a good enough platform to be able to say that, that this is giving it as far as it can go,” she told a Palace press briefing.

1,000 guests at signing

More than 1,000 guests are expected to witness the signing, with nearly 500 representatives of the MILF, led by its chair, Murad Ebrahim, also attending the affair.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose country served as a third-party facilitator, has also been invited to witness the event.

Deles said the signing is being held in the national capital, not in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat or elsewhere, to avoid “a logistic problem.”

“It’s easier for people to travel to Manila if you want people to come from all over,” she said. “Having it in Manila also makes it possible for other celebrations [elsewhere] to be held because when we beam it from Manila, then it reaches the entire country.”

PH’s global contribution

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Chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer described the peace accord as the Philippines’ “global contribution to the pursuit of peace in our immediate neighborhood, the Southeast Asian region, and the rest of the world.”

It comes nine years after “the last momentous agreement of this kind,” the one signed between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement, she noted.

“Many other countries [that] face similar troubles are looking up to us to show the way or possible modalities by which they can also address their own domestic conflicts,” Ferrer said.

“Our experience, our mechanisms, our approaches have become a rich source of inspiration to these countries that remain challenged by different sources of domestic hostility,” she said.

Women’s track

Ferrer also said the CAB would be “the first such agreement to be signed by a woman,” referring to herself. Two other women from the government panel, Yasmin Busran-Lao and Zenonida Brosas, will also be signing the document.

“Happy Women’s Month to everyone!” she said.

“The point, however, is not simply that you have women in Track 1, but that this agreement is a partnership in many ways: A partnership between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government, between and among peoples of different faiths and ethnicity, and between men and women. And together, we can make it all happen. Together, we can make peace, not war,” she said.

Ferrer said the signing is “but a short station stop in this difficult but rewarding journey to build peace, development and meaningful autonomy for the Bangsamoro and the other people in the parts of Mindanao that will fall under the autonomous government.”

“We cannot rest. We shall be moving on full-speed ahead towards full implementation,” she said.

The final agreement—composed of all signed agreements between the government and the MILF, including the four annexes and addendum on the Bangsamoro waters and zones of joint cooperation—will form the basis for the drafting of the basic law for the Bangsamoro entity to be created for the Muslim minority in Mindanao.

The basic law will be submitted to Congress for approval and “upheld in a plebiscite in the proposed core territory” to “formalize the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro political entity that will enjoy an enhanced political and fiscal autonomy,” according to a statement from Deles’ office.

Pressure on communists

At the same Palace briefing, Deles said the signing of the final agreement with the MILF “puts pressure” on the communist rebels to return to the negotiating table.

“The signing of a peace agreement and the settlement of armed conflict with any other group that is in the same countries, certainly, exert certain pressures on any of the armed movement that is not yet moving along those lines,” she said.

Deles said part of the pressure would come from the public that would ask: “If this can be done here, in what has certainly been a very difficult peace process, why can’t it happen with you as well?”

“It puts pressure on us to deliver, but it puts pressure on other armed groups as well… to work in partnership with government to look for [a] solution that can work,” she added.

Deles said the government remained open to resuming the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

But she said there should be “some inkling that [the NDFP] will reach a final settlement.”

Door remains open

“Under this government, those who are left out are those who want to be left out. So the door remains open to all fronts that [for] one to work together with government, it is still a call to partnership,” she said.

Deles said President Aquino would be willing to meet with the CPP leadership in the same way that he met with Murad, the MILF chair, in Japan in 2011.

She said the parallel peace track with the NDF had been difficult.

“[It] has been going on for a far longer [period], has delivered so little, has delivered so little in terms of milestones in the peace process and has delivered nothing in terms of improving the lives of people on the ground,” she said.

Originally posted: 10:15 pm | Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

 
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TAGS: Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, News, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Peace agreement, peace negotiations, peace process, Peace Talks, Philippine Government, Teresita Quintos-Deles
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