Next tripartite meet is on January 14, 2008

The consensus was reached during the small-group closed-door sessions held from 11:20 am to 2 pm Sunday (4:20 pm to 7 pm in Manila); 4:30 pm to 6:15 pm (9:30 pm to 11:15 pm in Manila) and from 7:30 p.m. to around 11 p.m.  (12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday in Manila).

The agreement is contained in a communiqué that will be distributed here this afternoon.

Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Philippine government delegation head and lawyer Randolph Parcasio, MNLF delegation head, told MindaNews the five clustered issues are : Shariah and the Judiciary; Regional Security Force; Natural resources and Economy (including mines and minerals); political system and representation; and Education.

The five joint working groups, to be composed of three members each from the Philippine government and the MNLF, are expected to submit their progress reports by January 10, for discussion during the Tripartite Meeting on January 14.

The working groups will look into the provisions of RA 9054, the law that was supposed to have incorporated the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, and compare this with the Agreement’s provisions.

Sunday’s meeting ended at 11 p.m. (4 a.m. in Manila),  nearly two hours after copies of the draft communiqué were distributed to the small-group participants.

Tan told MindaNews Monday morning that the draft communiqué is being finalized and the plenary will convene at 1 p.m.  Monday (5 p.m. in Manila)  for the final session and closing rites.

The schedule for Monday, according to the draft work program was supposed to be a closed door session from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and closed-door discussion and adoption of recommendations from 4 to 6 p.m. and closing session from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

But because both the Philippine government and the MNLF had reached an agreement on the major points late Sunday night, the closing rites had been moved to 1 p.m.

The venue for the next Tripartite Meeting is “to be decided later” as no agreement was reached on the matter.

Earlier, MNLF officials said they prefer Jeddah to remain the venue for the second Tripartite Meeting. Jeddah is the base of the 57-nation OIC which brokered the talks that led to the signing of the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements and which is again facilitating the talks here. The MNLF holds an observer status in the OIC.

Tan told MindaNews he proposed that the venue be in Manila to give Misuari a better chance at attending. Misuari is presently detained in a bungalow in New Manila, Quezon City, for alleged rebellion. He has been detained in the country since January 2002 He was arrested and detained in Sabah, Malaysia from late November 2001 until early January 2002, for alleged illegal entry.

Tan said the MNLF, during the small-group meeting, proposed that the venue for the next Tripartite Meeting be in any Islamic country.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis earlier told MindaNews the next venue should be Manila to allow Misuari to participate. 

Earlier on Sunday, the MNLF delegation presented as number one agenda item the release of Misuari from detention.

The Philippine government delegation and the OIC delegation, however, said the Tripartite Meeting was not the proper forum that could deal with Misuari’s release as theTripartite Meeiting is principally intended to review of the implementation of the 1996 peace pact.

The OIC had earlier repeatedly urged the Philippine government to free Misuari.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)