GRP, MILF peace panels meet in KL for “Q and A” session

Neither panel wants to go into the details of what transpired during the meeting that started at 10 a.m. September 25 and ended at 1 a.m. September 27 but representatives from both panels maintain the peace negotiations “have not collapsed.” The KL meeting was initially scheduled only for a day but was extended until the next day. The discussions focused mostly on “various aspects of territory” on Day One and part of Day 2 followed by an executive session,  MindaNews sources from both panels said.  Because of Ramadhan, the Islamic month of fasting, the meetings started at 10 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m. and resumed in the evenings after the Muslims broke their fast. Day One ended at 1 a.m. of September 26 while Day 2 ended also at  1 a.m.  on  September 27. “I can only say it was fruitful,” government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia, a general who retired as deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told MindaNews.  MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF’s Information Committee, told MindaNews the year-long impasse may not have been resolved as yet but “I think the road towards peace is still very bright.”  “But this is up to the government,” he added.  

The peace talks ended in an impasse in September 2006 on the issue of territory.

 

Since then, the two panels had met only twice, in Malaysia: for a  “clarificatory” meeting in December last year and the “special meeting” on August 27 this year which extended by one year the tour of duty of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), ending August 2008. The parties also agreed to expand the scope of coverage of the IMT to include Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Palawan.

 

The two parties were supposed to have met in Kuala Lumpur on August 22 to 24 but the government peace panel sought postponement, claiming it had “no clear mandate.”MindaNews sources said  hawks in the Cabinet wanted a return to the “enhanced autonomy” proposal which the MILF actually rejected already in early 2003.

 

The former government peace panel chair, Silvestre Afable had made a proposal during a “clarificatory meeting” in December, to break the impasse. Afable and his panel invoked the right to self-determination guaranteed by the Constitution, a proposal welcomed by the MILF.

 Afable attended this week’s meeting as senior adviser.

 

The government panel was represented by Garcia, Afable, Assistant Chief State Prosecutior Leah Armamento and Ryan Mark Sullivan, head of the secretariat. The MILF peace panel was represented by Iqbal, members Datu Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto and Mike Pasigan, head of the secretariat. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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