MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/08 August) – Some business leaders in Mindanao welcomed President Benigno S. Aquino III’s historic meeting with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with whom the government is negotiating for lasting peace in the island.
Vicente Lao, Mindanao Business Council chair called the move a good development.
“It shows that this administration is seriously pursuing peace,” he told MindaNews via a text message Saturday night.
“It sends a good indication for business,” Manuel Orig, First Vice President for Mindanao Affairs of Aboitiz Power said.
“It is high time for peace,” he added after a briefing he gave to Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro reporters in Davao City.
“We welcome it. It’s good for business,” Raul Alkuino, former president of the board of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative said.
But Alkuino, an advocate of federalism, lamented the national government’s treatment of Mindanao.
“When imperial Manila is in trouble, they use the MILF, the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf or anything that draws attention,” he said, adding the tactic had been used by past administrations.
“Maybe PNoy (President Aquino) will change that system by investing in Mindanao,” he said.
Aquino and Murad talked for two hours in a hotel in Japan with their respective panel chairs taking down notes, the President’s Cabinet members and the MILF’s peace panel and Central Committee members as well as the Malaysian facilitator waiting outside the meeting room.
“It is high time for a genuine peace talks to start this early in PNoy’s administration,” Dr. Rachito Abellanosa, a sports tourism enthusiast from Bukidnon said.
He added that it’s about time to have a peaceful environment for all especially the neglected Muslims who have been deprived of education, health, and infrastructure by their leaders.
Others, however, welcomed the development with caution.
“Peace negotiations should not be between them (peace panels) alone. Especially if it is a fast-tracked peace process, the people should know (what’s being talked about),” Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said.
“Hopefully, the terms and conditions are transparent (this time) so we won’t be fooled again,” Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan said.
Calingasan was apparently referring to the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which the Supreme Court junked as unconstitutional.
The agreement, which was already initialled by members of the peace panels of both government and the MILF, was scheduled for signing three years ago this month in Kuala Lumpur.
The signing, however, was cancelled after the High Tribunal issued a temporary restraining order. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)