GMA confident peace talks will end armed conflict "this year"

She told the diplomatic corps during the traditional Vin D’ Honneur at Malacanang’s Rizal Hall this that with the new government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), “the peace talks would probably bring the decades-long armed conflict to an end this year.”

The President said that the new panel, headed by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, is “poised and ready to embark for substantive discussions, including ceasefire-related issues, the International Monitoring Team, and accelerated development for Mindanao.”

She expressed hope “all parties are as committed as we are to resume the negotiations soon.”

The President also reiterated her call on members of the International Monitoring Team composed of Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, and Japan; the Organization of  the Islamic Conference (OIC), European nations, and the United States “to continue their support to advance peace and progress in Southern Philippines.”

“I hope 2009 will be a comeback for peace, progress and prosperity in Mindanao,” she said.

The peace negotiations were stalled in August 2008 when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), barring the government peace panel chair from formally signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), the last of three agenda items in the talks, after relief and rehabilitation, and security. .

Government dissolved its peace panel on September 3,  a month before the Supreme Court ruled as “contrary to law and the Constitution” the MOA-AD.

According to the report posted on the OPS website,  Ms Arroyo said that when she assumed the post of President on January 20, 2001, “she already inherited a state of an all-out war in Southern Philippines.”

Ms Arroyo then  vowed an “all out peace” policy,  in contrast with President Estrada who waged an “all out war” against the MILF in March 2000.

Under the new administration in 2001, the peace process was restarted with representatives of both government and MILF meeting for preliminary talks in Malaysia in March 2001.

In June the same year, the first formal peace talks, held in Tripoli, yielded what is now The Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. Two more formal talks were held that year on relief and rehabilitation and security.

The talks were suspended in March 2002 by Ms Arroyo, citing alleged ceasefire violations by the MILF, but two major agreements were signed that year, in May, with the MILF peace panel chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Ms Arroyo’s backroom negotiators.

On February 10, 2003, the government peace panel then headed by Jesus Dureza (now Press Secretary), handed over  to the  House Speaker and Senate President, in separate meetings, the draft peace agreement with the MILF which government crafted. On the same day, the draft was presented to Ms Arroyo through then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo (now Foreign Affairs Secretary).

The next morning, however, Ms Arroyo’s vow for “all out peace” was broken when the military launched the Buliok offensive, purportedly to run after members of the Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom-gang but later acknowledged to be operations against the MILF.

Informal talks resumed in late March 2003, ended in an impasse in September 2006 that was broken 13 months later, in October 2007.

In December 2007,  just as both panels were supposed to finalize the draft of the MOA-AD, the MILF declined to meet with government, claiming the government peace panel veered away from the consensus points earlier agreed upon.

The December 2007 impasse was broken in mid-July 2008. On July 27, the two panels initialed the MOA-AD and scheduled the formal signing for August 5 in Kuala Lumpur.

Afternoon of August 4, the Supreme Court issued the TRO.  The rest, as they say, is history. (MindaNews)

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