Arroyo wants US to play greater role in Mindanao peace process

At the same time, Arroyo told American President George Bush "her administration is pursuing a broad agenda of self-determination for Mindanao," the government website www.ops.com. ph said Saturday.

Arroyo met Bush Saturday morning at the sidelines of the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' meeting at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Arroyo said the broad agenda will be done "through interfaith dialogues and development" as she pointed out it "will provide a second wind for US involvement in Southeast Asia for advancing freedom and prosperity," the website added.

The President cited the alliance among the Asean member-countries in addressing cross-border crossings of suspected terrorists belonging to the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf.

She said the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have an existing border patrol agreement to interdict terrorists moving through Sulawesi and the Sulu Sea to any of the three countries.

The MILF website www.luwaran. com meanwhile reported that chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal and deputy chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar led MILF officials who met with Jones' group to discuss the peace talks, status of the ceasefire agreement and American government projects in Mindanao.

The website noted that American envoys have met with MILF officials in 1998 and 2005.

Arroyo's call for greater US involvement in Mindanao came nine days after the government peace panel forwarded its proposal on territory in an attempt to break the two-month-old impasse in the peace negotiations with the MILF.

The negotiations hit another snag after the two parties failed to resolve issues concerning territory and ancestral domain.

Government chief peace negotiator Secretary Silvestre Afable Jr. reportedly signed the proposal expressed in a letter to Iqbal on Nov. 9. The MILF is still studing the proposal, www.luwaran. com reported Saturday.

The website quoted Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, as having said that the MILF negotiating team is studying the new proposal "very closely and after which it will present a recommendation to its Principal, the MILF Central Committee, for final decision."

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters Friday the proposal's gist said "the way forward revolves around the concept of self-determination" .

Dureza expressed confidence the proposal will be followed by the two panels' early return to the negotiating table.

The MILF has always anchored its struggle on "the Bangsamoro people's right to self-determination. "

It has objected to an earlier proposal that any area outside of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to be added to the Bangsamoro ancestral domain should be subjected to a plebiscite as required by the Philippine Constitution.

In his presentation "Framing Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain with Right to Self Determination, " Datu Michael Mastura, MILF peace panel member, told the Kusog Mindanao conference on Nov. 3 that the issue of ancestral domain is not about asking local governments to accede through a plebiscite but "to right territorial wrongs" committed against the Bangsamoro.

Mastura said at stake in the drawing out of political boundaries is not relationships between State and ethnicity, that is, tri-peoples in Mindanao. Territory and not preferences of people via popular consent is the real issue, he stressed.

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