This is the third extension since the September 6 to 7 exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur.
Then, the government asked that it be given until September 30. It then asked again for an extension to October 31 and now wants the proposal presented on November 15.
A government panel source told MindaNews the extension was sought to allow the panel to present its proposal before the President and her Cabinet first. The President is presently out of the country.
On October 5, government peace panel chair Silvestre Afable told civil society groups here that they asked for another month, up to end of October, to gather more suggestions from various sectors on how to break the impasse.
Afable said his panel had been consulting with different sectors to discuss what can be done to break the impasse.
“I would like to assure you that the panel is not losing any of its bearings dito sa sitwasyon na ito (in this situation). We are trying our best,” he told representatives of peace groups from various parts of Mindanao, including the conflict-affected areas such as Pikit and Carmen in North Cotabato and Pagalungan in Maguindanao.
“We are but instruments of what the people aspire for,” Afable said as he welcomed proposals from anyone who may have an idea on how to break the impasse.
In the 13th exploratory talks on September 6 and 7 in Kuala Lumpur, the government and MILF peace panels failed to resolve the impasse on territory, the last of four strands in the ancestral domain agenda.
Afable said both panels have achieved so much in the peace negotiations. He acknowledged the tension generated by the impasse “that’s why we call on the people to help us find a way out.”
In the October 28 issue of the MILF’s website, www.luwaran.com, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, when asked whether the MILF would agree to another extension, replied, “it depends on the strength of the argument for extension.”
The website reported Iqbal as saying that even if the government can beat the deadline and bring up an acceptable proposition on territory, “the talks cannot resume unless the names of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other MILF members included in the criminal complaint in connection with the bombings in Makilala, North Cotabato and Tacurong City will be deleted.”
“He said that the charging of Murad, which several government top officials including DND Sec. Avelino Cruz described as ‘speculation,’ has shattered practically all the confidence-building efforts over the years,” luwaran.com reported.