Sunday, September 04, 2011

MILF stands firm on demand for Muslim sub-state in Mindanao

MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 4, 2011) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is unlikely to sign a peace deal with the Aquino government unless its demand for a sub-state in Mindanao is granted.


Peace talks between Manila and the MILF ended in Malaysia 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 will not sign an agreement that will not solve the problem because even if we signed an agreement that is beneficial to us, but not acceptable to our people then the struggle will go on. We are nothing if the Bangsamoro people will not support us,” said Murad Ebrahim, the secluded leader of the MILF.

“In our continuing massive consultations, a sub-state for the Bangsamoro people as a political settlement of the Bangsamoro struggle to regain self-governance and right to self-determination is acceptable to our people as an alternative to independence,” he said.

The MILF, then under its chieftain Salamat Hashim, was previously fighting for an independent state in Mindanao, but after his death, his deputy Ebrahim, opted for the creation of a Muslim sub-state in the South.

But politicians, many of them own vast tracks of lands and huge businesses in Mindanao, opposed the MILF demand and said they will not allow being included in any autonomy or sub-state in the region.

Government peace negotiators headed by Marvic Leonen offered the rebel group an expanded Muslim autonomy in Mindanao, but the MILF flatly rejected this.
The MILF said the proposal was not comprehensive, but rather a framework for the integration of the Muslims into the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which comprises the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao.

“Integration is opposite to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination and self-governance. Integration coupled with massive development will not solve the problem,” Ebrahim said. “If the (peace) agreement is not reflective of the real aspiration of the Bangsamoro people, then it is an exercise in futility.”

Mohagher Iqbal, the chief MILF peace negotiator, also said the government proposal would not solve the problems in Mindanao.

“The government draft is not solving the Moro question and the armed conflict in Mindanao, but it is a formula to prolong it,” Iqbal said, adding the proposal for a wider autonomy was way below their expectation.

“The government peace panel draft is way below the MILF expectation. The MILF peace panel thought that the Aquino administration had a better formula than the previous administrations in addressing the Moro question and armed conflict in Mindanao.”

“The unbridled domination of the Philippine government over the Moros through the unitary setup of government is not only maintained but reenergized and practically, the draft derogated all signed agreements or documents including the historic Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001,” Iqbal said, adding the government proposal has “no meeting point” with the MILF peace draft.

Leonen said the government proposal which he called a “3 for 1” approach was different from the MILF’s comprehensive compact. He said “3 for 1” stands for three components for one single solution to the problem of Bangsamoro.

He said the “3 for 1” proposal was the result of the government peace panel’s extensive consultations with the different stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process.

“It seeks not only to provide a just and lasting peace to the troubled south but more so to improve and uplift the lives of the people who have long suffered from the brutality of decades-long armed conflict. It is a principled, realistic and practical proposal that follows a comprehensive “3 for 1” approach or 3 components for 1 solution to the Bangsamoro problem,” Leonen said in a statement at the closing ceremony of the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.

He said these components are made up of 1) massive economic development; 2) political settlement with the MILF, and; 3) cultural-historical acknowledgment. (Mindanao Examiner)

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