Thursday, November 03, 2011

Philippines, MILF rebels resume peace talks in Malaysia

An MILF freedom fighter looks on as his companion cleans his weapon at their base in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 3, 2011) – Philippine government peace negotiators met with Muslim rebels in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday in an effort to hasten the talks after a series of clashes last month in the southern region of Mindanao.

Peace talks in August ended with both sides failing to agree on the demand of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the creation of a Muslim sub-state in the predominantly Christian population in Mindanao.

It followed deadly clashes between security and rebel forces in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces and a series of MILF attacks in Lanao province.

The fighting and the links of some rebel commanders to the spate of kidnappings and terrorism are also expected to be discussed during the talks, aside from the previous demand of the MILF for the establishment of a Muslim sub-state in Mindanao.

Manila has offered the MILF - the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination – a wider autonomy in Mindanao which would have to be voted by Filipinos in a referendum, which in the past had been repeatedly rejected.

But the MILF peace panel rejected the offer and stood firm by its demand.

There is no assurance that Thursday talks would bring about an agreement, especially that only four members from both sides attended the negotiations. Its first meeting was held in executive session, according to a senior MILF official, but details of the talks were not immediately known.

It was unknown why some of the peace negotiators were absent from the formal talks.

Marvic Leonen, chief government peace negotiator, has previously said that the government autonomy 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.”

The MILF has asked Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks, in the past to intervene in the deadlock. The rebel group described the government autonomy proposal and its own demand for a sub-state as “heaven-and-earth.”

Mindanao has a Muslim autonomous region which is comprise of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao, but its governors have decried the lack of government projects in the provinces.

Leonen said the government’s offer does not necessarily mean that it will only cover the provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. “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)

No comments: