Plebiscite may decide fate of GPH-MILF final peace pact, says Jaafar

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/28 May) — The final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, especially the  inclusion of areas to the proposed new Bangsamoro entity, may undergo a plebiscite, a top rebel official said on Monday.

Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, issued the pronouncement as the peace panels resumed negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of third-party mediator Malaysia.

“The plebiscite will depend on the content of the [final peace] agreement. That [plebiscite] will have to be discussed. But for the MILF, we want the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and areas with Moro population within the new Bangsamoro entity,” he told a local radio station here in Filipino.

Last month, government and MILF peace negotiators agreed in principle to create a new Bangsamoro entity that would replace the autonomous Muslim region.

Jaafar said the establishment of a new autonomous political entity would be among the major points that will be tackled during the resumption of peace negotiations.

The MILF had dropped its bid for an independent state, proposing instead a Bangsamoro sub-state with “asymmetrical relationship” with the Philippine state.

Jaafar said the Front is optimistic that the final peace agreement “would be accommodated by the ambit of the Philippine constitution.”

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles expressed optimism that the GPH and MILF peace panels will build on what has already been achieved during the last round of negotiations.

“We are hoping that the next round of talks will be able to build on the gains established with the signing of the Decision Points on Principles during the April meeting,” she said in a statement released Monday

The GPH and MILF panels met Monday in Kuala Lumpur for the 28th formal exploratory talks.

Last month, both parties signed the Decision Points on Principles which contains 10 mutually identified standpoints that will serve as the framework for discussions towards crafting the final peace agreement.

“The GPH panel goes to KL having undergone intensive preparations for the substantive agenda which are on the table. These are difficult issues which may test the will and patience of the two parties,” Deles said.

In preparation for the talks this month, the GPH panel conducted consultations with various stakeholders, which included senators, congressmen, local chief executives in Mindanao, business leaders and Ulama, to know their sentiments and gather their inputs on the GPH-MILF peace process.

“We pray for the two panels to be able to bridge the gaps between the parties’ positions and expand common grounds towards the peace our people have long desired and which our country badly needs to achieve lasting progress,” Deles said.

Last Friday, Mario Victor F. Leonen, government chief peace negotiator, met with Mindanao’s business sector in Davao City in a forum dubbed “Engaging Business in the Peace Process,” spearheaded by the Mindanao Business Council and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.

In a separate statement, Leonen said that the government is fully aware that many groups and voices besides the MILF are working towards the same aspirations for peace in Southern Philippines. “We are therefore vocal in saying that negotiations and all outputs should be inclusive and that all parties should be accommodated within that aspiration.”

“President Benigno Aquino III is sincere about the peace talks and he has no other agenda except to bring a just and lasting solution to the armed conflict in Mindanao,” he added.

Leonen underscored the vast economic potentials of Mindanao in terms of tourism, fisheries, agro-industries, as well as its potential ability to harness and mobilize its highly skilled and experienced Moro professionals, technical and managerial human resources.

“I’ve personally seen them, I have seen the young Moro as we have a legal team dominated by excellent young Moro professionals,” he said. “I have seen a lot of good Moro leaders, public and private who can actually be our leaders of the future.”

Leonen said the government wants to sign a final peace agreement with the MILF within the year.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to bring about a peace agreement soon enough – hopefully within this year,” he said, “but as government negotiator I can only promise our aspirations within the government panel.”

“We are all in this together; we believe that this is a national issue and not a local one, for the sooner we realize this peace, the better for our country,” he added. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2012/05/29/plebiscite-may-decide-fate-of-gph-milf-final-peace-pact-says-jaafar/

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