Bishops: GMA tried to allay fears vs IMT pull-out

BUC co-convener United Church of Christ of the Philippines Bishop Emeritus Hilario Gomez said the President neither confirmed nor denied the pullout of forces by the Malaysian government.

Gomez told MindaNews Malaysia is not pulling out, contrary to reports.

He quoted the President as saying there is a need to correct reports that Malaysia has left its mediator role in the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

On April 21, the Malaysian Foreign Minister warned about the pull-out of Malaysian troops from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which it heads. Aside from heading the IMT, Malaysia has been facilitating the talks since Ms Arroyo took over as President in 2001.

But on April 24, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, also Defense Minister, was quoted by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama as saying Malaysia will start to withdraw in phases its peacekeeping troops from Mindanao, Philippines, next month.
 
“A decision has been made on our presence there (Mindanao)… we cannot be there forever," Najib told reporters at the 11th Defense Services Asia Exhibition and Conference, bernama.com reported.

Najib said 21 peacekeepers would return to Malaysia initially. Malaysia has 41 troops in the 57-person IMT. The rest are from Brunei (10), Libya (5) and Japan, which sent a development expert.

The chief of Malaysia's Defnce Force (not Najib as eariler reported) is arriving in the country and has a scheduled meeting with the MILF in the latter's camp in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan over the weekend.

President Arroyo arrived to join the BUC's 34th General Assembly meeting at the Marco Polo. The meeting was kept off the press, leaving journalists at the hotel lobby interviewing other officials like Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Except for this meeting, the President’s appearance before the BUC was always open for media coverage.

Malaybalay’s Bishop Honesto Pacana said the meeting touched on many things but the reported pull out of Malaysian monitors figured significantly in the meeting.  

Pacana told MindaNews no manifesto or statement was signed in the meeting with the President. But he said a proposal to merge the MILF and MNLF into "one Bangsamoro" was among those discussed amidst the challenges faced in the peace process.

He said there has been no confirmation on the reported pull out and that the national government is keen on proceeding with the peace process.

Aleem Mahmod Adilao, co-convenor of the BUC, told MindaNews the meeting with the President was not in the agenda of the BUC's 34th meeting which started April 29.

"We were surprised with her attendance," he said.

He said the President assured at least 50 religious leaders of the government's commitment to peace. But he said the President also took the sentiments of the people in the meeting especially on the reported pull-out of Malaysian peace monitoring forces.

"They tried to listen to how the people from Mindanao felt about the situation.

Philippine Information Agency regional director Efren Elbanbuena told MindaNews Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza was the right person to ask on the outcome of the meeting.

But Dureza was nowhere in the hotel lobby as meeting participants left the hotel following the President's exit. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/c106-grp-milf/2008/04/30/bishops-gma-tried-to-allay-fears-vs-imt-pull-out/

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