Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Philippines to resume peace talks with MILF, NPA rebels

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 8, 2009) – The Philippines on Wednesday said it is ready to revive the collapsed peace talks with Muslim and communist rebels following the spate of bombings and fighting in the troubled region of Mindanao.

Government peace talks with the New People’s Army collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement that will put an end to four decades of bloody fighting in the country.

Peace talks also with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front broke down after the failed signing of the Muslim ancestral domain in August last year.

The NPA accused President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on an agreement that would free political prisoners and stop the killings of activists in the country, among others. While the MILF said Arroyo reneged on a deal that would have granted to some four million Muslims their own homeland in Mindanao.

“After 40 years of fighting, it’s time we give peace a chance,” said Secretary Avelino Razon, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Razon’s call came after a series of recent bombings blamed by the police and military to the MILF killed six people and wounded dozens more in the southern Philippines.

“The government sees a good prospect for the resumption of the talks in the immediate period given the commitment of both parties to work in addressing the issues that clog the negotiating table,” Razon said.

Razon, a former Philippine police chief, said he is optimistic the stalled peace talks between the government and the MILF would resume despite the four bombing attacks that occurred in Mindanao since Sunday.

He urged the MILF to return to the peace negotiations to stop the fighting in Mindanao where security forces are battling rebels since the collapsed of the talks. The clashes displaced some half a million people in Mindanao.

Razon said the wave of bombings in Cotabato City, Iligan City, Sulu and Lanao del Norte province would not deter the government from pushing the peace process with the MILF.

Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said rebel and government negotiators are currently holding unofficial talks in Malaysia for the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

“The MILF chief peace negotiator, Brother Mohagher Iqbal and the Philippine representative Rafael Seguis are now in Kuala Lumpur and they are discussing with the Malaysian government the possibility of resuming the stalled peace talks,” Kabalu said.

Malaysia, an influential member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, is helping in the peace process. “The ball is in the hands of the Philippine government. It is the Arroyo government which can resolve the Mindanao problem,” Kabalu said.

Razon said the Arroyo government is determined to end the fighting not only in Mindanao, but all other conflict areas in the country. He said the government would like to see a conclusion of the peace process, particularly with the MILF and the communist rebels by 2010 as envisioned by President Arroyo.

Razon also said that the government has intensified its rehabilitation and development projects in Mindanao and other rebel-influenced areas. But the MILF said continued government offensive against the rebels resulted in a humanitarian crisis and unabated human rights violations against Muslims.

Razon also announced that the government would lift suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees with the NPA to allow the rebels to resume peace talks.

Communist leaders earlier called on the citizens “to employ to the fullest all forms of open protest and armed resistance against all of Gloria Arroyo's moves to perpetuate her reign through all means foul and brutal.”

Arroyo is to step down next year when her term ends, but her allies in Congress are campaigning to amend the Constitution and eventually change the presidential form of government to parliamentary.

Opposition politicians and civil groups opposed to Arroyo said amending the Constitution would eventually prolong her stay in power. Arroyo is said to be eyeing a congressional seat in her hometown in Pampanga province next year to evade possible law suits from corruption scandals that rocked her administration.

“Gloria Arroyo is increasingly becoming desperate with time running short and her schemes at reign perpetuation through 'legal' means exposed and opposed at every turn. More and more of Arroyo's dirty, out rightly illegal and fascist cards are now coming out of her sleeves, including the replication of Marcosian tactics to extend her reign of terror and corruption,” the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement.

“There is really nothing new about these moves of naked power perpetuation. The bombing spree going on now is an exact replication of Marcos' bombings in many areas of Metro Manila in 1971 and the first eight months of 1972 that eventually led to the imposition of martial law," the CPP said, referring to Philippine dictator President Marcos.

The CPP said it directed the NPA rebels to intensify its offensives against the government. (Mindanao Examiner)

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