GPH, MILF peace panels end three-day talks; will return to KL in January

KUALA LUMPUR  (MindaNews/07 December) – The Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels will return here next month after meeting with their respective principals – President Benigno Simeon Aquino and  MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim – on the “substantive points”  to craft a mutually acceptable peace formula.

The one-page six-paragraph statement was couched in general terms, such as the parties “reaffirming their commitment to move the peace process forward” and that they “continued their discussions on the substantive points for purposes of crafting a framework agreement.”

It did not give away information on what the two panels discussed in a two-hour executive session Tuesday morning although both panel chairs said, “we are moving forward.”

JOINT STATEMENT. Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen (L) and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal sign Joint Statement in the presence of Malaysian facilitator Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed at the Royale Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday morning.  MindaNews photo courtesy of OPAPPThe Joint Statement signed at the Executive Boardroom of the Royale Chulan Hotel here noted that the parties had agreed to renew for another year the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which will expire in March 2012 and adopted the Terms of Reference of its Humanitarian Rehabilitation and Development Component (HRDC).

Like the Joint Statement that they signed, the two panel chairs’ individual statements on the peace formula they are trying to craft were also couched in general terms.

Government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen told MindaNews,  “I am quoting MILF chair (Mohagher) Iqbal. He said ‘we are moving forward.’”

“Yes, we are moving forward,” he said, but acknowledged “the hard work is still to come.”’

From immovable positions to ,,,

Leonen declined to divulge details saying they have yet to report to President Aquino on what the panels have discussed.  The MILF, on the other hand will report what they have discussed to the MILF chair and Central Committee.

Iqbal reiterated they are “moving forward.”

“We have started the very difficult journey. Well, what is important is that even if it were a journey of a thousand miles, we have started stepping now. We have at least one, two, three steps already and we are moving towards that direction,” he told MindaNews.

Iqbal said the two panels had “immovable positions” in August, when the MILF peace panel rejected the government’s proposed “three for one formula” for the peace settlement.

“We started from two immovable positions. And then we started to understand each other’s immovable positions. And from there, there is going to be some adjustments, then we can move the process,” he said..

“We were immovables in August .Understanding each others’ minds was not there. Now, we tried to level off. While there is no movement yet, they understand our minds, we understand their minds and from there if there is an adjustment,  we expect to move forward,” he said.

 

AFTER THE SIGNING. Members of the government and MILF peace panels and the International Contact Group pose with Malaysian facilitator Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed for a souvenir photo after the signing of the Joint Statement Wednesday morning at the Royale Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The panels will meet again next month. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Flexible enough

Leonen in his opening statement on Monday said their proposed political settlement “should be flexible enough.”

“Our collective human abilities to find a solution to fundamental problems are fallible. Our foresight can err. Thus, the solutions that we attempt should always benefit from constant evaluation. The solutions that we attempt, the cornerstones that we put on the ground, should be flexible. They should be amenable to adjustment after objective assessment. During the implementation, they should be malleable to their contemporary realities,” he said.

Leonen also cited the “complex” constituencies and that the solutions “should be able to address the legitimate interests of all those we represent here in the table.”

“We both may represent the same constituencies, but, it is possible we do so in different capacities. We should build on the commonality of their legitimate interests, political empowerment, economic development, ecological viability, cultural respect and democratic toleration. Our solution should be as pragmatic to these myriad interests as it is principled. Hence, we should also take advantage of what each of our principals could deliver. Complicated problems in our part of Mindanao benefit from your partnership,” he said.

Iqbal, on the other hand stressed in his opening statement that all the issues in the negotiations “are already put on the table.”

“Nothing is hidden anymore from both sides,” he said  as he reiterated that the MILF “as everyone knows, has no option to secede by agreeing to settle for real self-governance in the Bangsamoro state which is still within the larger Philippine state.”

He said government should “stop thinking of solving the conflict in Mindanao by attempting to integrate the Moros into the national body politic.”

“The Moro aspiration for a separate identity and territorial autonomy are as strong as ever. This will not die down; it will consolidate and harden as years pile up. This is the reason the MILFis urging the government not to suppress this aspiration, and instead, find an acceptable formula leading to a more constructive engagement in order to ensure the unity of this country. For the MILF, we view the state-substate asymmetrical formulation as a formula of peace and unity in this country.”

Wednesday’s closing session, held behind closed doors like Monday’s opening session, started at 9:45 and ended with everyone posing for souvenir photos  before noon.

The specific date in January has not been set but both panels agreed to meet again next month.

In his opening statement on Monday, Leonen posed a challenge: “let us complete our task within the first quarter of next year.”

Iqbal said, “the people of Mindanao want peace now and not later.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNew)

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2011/12/08/gph-milf-peace-panels-end-three-day-talks-will-return-to-kl-in-january/

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