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MILF keeps optimism over peace talks alive

/ 04:15 AM July 09, 2016

OZAMIZ CITY—Moro rebel leaders are keeping their optimism alive that the peace process started by the Aquino administration would be continued and sustained by the administration of President Duterte.

In an Eid al-Fitr message to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its chair, Murad Ebrahim, said efforts to keep the peace process moving under the Duterte administration were ongoing.

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As soon as Duterte was declared winner of the presidential race, Murad said MILF had already launched “back channeling engagement” to preserve the gains of the peace process that led to the signing of a peace pact with the Aquino administration but fell short in its target of having a new law passed by Congress that would create a new autonomous setup for the Moro people.

The MILF central committee, according to Murad, had formed a group that discussed the peace process with close aides of Mr. Duterte. Murad did not identify who they were, though.

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The initial discussion with Mr. Duterte’s aides, said Murad, led to the one-on-one meeting between him and Mr. Duterte in Davao City on June 17.

Murad recounted that during the meeting, which lasted some 20 minutes, he and Mr. Duterte “had very substantive discussions toward the way forward in the search for peace.”

“We are now working for the continuation of that back channeling discussions until we are able to start the formal engagement,” said Murad.

He said there was also an agreement to hold another set of back channel talks next week.

It was not clear whether the next round of discussion would still involve Murad and Mr. Duterte or members of government and MILF peace panels.

The Duterte administration has not formed a peace panel for the MILF yet.

In his inaugural address on June 30, Mr. Duterte vowed to honor all peace agreements signed by previous administrations with both communist and Moro rebel groups.

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Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the Duterte administration would also seek the convergence of peace initiatives with MILF and Moro National Liberation Front. Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao

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