Friday, September 09, 2011

Manila offers ‘genuine autonomy’ to Muslim rebels

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 9, 2011) – The Philippine government reiterated its offer of autonomy to the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, even as it rejected the proposal and demand for a sub-state in Mindanao Island.

Marvic Leonen, chief government peace negotiator, said their proposal called “3-for-1” formula offers political settlement. “It offers the concept of genuine autonomy,” he said.

He said the proposal follows a comprehensive approach or three components for one solution to the Bangsamoro problem – first, roadmap for development and socio-economic rehabilitation in the region through a creation of the Joint Coordinating Committee on Development; secondly, peace accord through the creation of a Bangsamoro Commission which shall re-craft an Organic Act for genuine autonomy and supervise the implementation of the peace pact; and lastly, to acknowledge the historical injustice of conflict and reconciliation wherein the government is willing to “officially retell the real history of Mindanao.”

Peace talks between Manila and the MILF ended in Kuala Lumpur in August 24 without any agreement that would put an end to decades of bloody fighting in Mindanao. The MILF, which is fighting for self-determination, said it would pursue a sub-state in the mineral-rich, but restive region in the southern Philippines.

The MILF has asked Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, to intervene in the deadlock.

“In any case, the GPH is always ready, willing, and able to sit down and talk. Although for the government, there is no substitute to face-to-face meetings to discuss issues,” Leonen said. “We are open to see how the shuttling of the facilitator can help move the process forward.”

Leonen was in Davao City on Thursday for a consultation with local leaders. He was accompanied by Miriam Ferrer and Senen Bacani, who are also members of the government peace panel.

The MILF described the government autonomy proposal and its own demand for a sub-state as “heaven-and-earth.” But Leonen said “there can be common grounds.

“Our regard for the MILF leadership and their panel is undiminished even with the current public positioning of the parties,” he said.

Leonen said the government’s offer does not necessarily mean that it will only cover the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao provinces.

“The government is sincere to grant genuine autonomy and there should not be conflict in labeling since the concept sub-state - which is demanded by the MILF in their Revised Comprehensive Compact - is also specie of autonomy for self-governance, where there is still a relation with national government. Let’s not fail to bring peace in Mindanao because of labels,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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