ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 6, 2011) – Local mayor Celso Lobregat has renewed his appeal to Manila to exclude Zamboanga from any agreement that would include the city to the expanded Muslim autonomy or so-called Bangsamoro homeland as proposed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We have to be vigilant. We are yes for peace and we want just and long lasting peace, but Zamboanga does not want to be part of the Bangsamoro homeland, the expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or such a group in whatever form and in whatever name,” Lobregat said.
This after President Benigno Aquino secretly held a meeting with MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim at a Tokyo hotel in Japan on August 4. Aquino called the meeting ahead of peace talks with the rebel group this month in Kuala Lumpur.
The civil organization called Black and White Movement which supported Aquino’s election campaign in 2009, praised the meeting.
“The Black and White Movement lauds the President for quietly but actively pursuing the resumption of peace talks between the government and MILF. His assertiveness gives all sides in the peace process an advance in the right direction. This was a positive move, one that may well hasten the end to hostilities; bring about peaceful coexistence and economic development in Mindanao,” it said on Saturday.
The meeting coincided with the failed signing of the Muslim homeland deal between Manila and the MILF three years ago after the Supreme Court ruled that the accord was unconstitutional.
The foiled signing of the accord led to bloody attacks by rebels several towns in Mindanao that left dozens of people dead and wounded.
Lobregat, who was opposed to the Muslim homeland deal, was among those that led locals to protest the accord.
The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, said it is no longer pursuing independence in Mindanao, but would fight for self-determination. (Mindanao Examiner)