Government confident on new proposal to MILF

Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters Friday that indicators show there could possibly be an earlier resumption of the exploratory talks of the two panels following the government's submission of a new proposal on November 9.

He said that the MILF received the following day, five days ahead of the government's extension of a deadline for the proposal.

Dureza did not give any salient feature of the new proposal beyond saying that said the proposal was only contained in a one-page letter. He said that in gist, the letter-proposal suggested that "the way forward revolves around the concept of self-determination".

Dureza said the MILF has "indicated a lot of positive ambience" in reaction to the new proposal compared in the past.  But he said Friday the government did not "throw away" the Philippine Constitution in the new proposal. He refused to give details pending the

official response from the MILF.

On Wednesday, Lanang Ali, MILF peace panel member said the MILF response was still "forthcoming" and earlier on Monday, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said the new proposal "enlarges the ring". He did not elaborate, nor clarified to what he was referring to.

The government and MILF peace panels failed to resolve the impasse over territory, the last of the four strands on ancestral domain during the 13th exploratory talks on September 6 and 7 in Malaysia.

Among the sources of the impasse was the issue on "constitutional processes" focused merely on the plebiscite required in the creation or merger of local government units.The MILF has resisted subjecting the delineation of the Bangsamoro Homeland to a plebiscite.

The government has asked to be given until September 30 to present a new formula but failed to meet its deadline and sought for an extension, until October 31, to consult different sectors. It again asked for an extension of the deadline to November 15.

An earlier MindaNews dispatch reported a government and MILF agreement on a five-province, one-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as the core of the Bangsamoro Homeland. They differed though with government offering 613 Moro-dominated villages, and the MILF demanding at least 3,000 villages.

The ancestral domain agenda is divided into four strands: concept, resources, governance and territory.

On November 3, another MILF panel member, former Maguindanao Rep. Datu Michael Mastura told the Kusog Mindanao conference that the issue of ancestral domain was “not about LGUs' accession through plebiscite but the Bangsamoro territorial grievance”.

Mastura said they seek “to right territorial wrongs and it is anomalous to conduct plebiscites when demographic changes are so altered ethnic composition in conflict-affected areas". Mastura said there was no “just solution” to the conflicts unless territorial wrongs are corrected.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who chairs the Confederation of Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors' League Presidents of Mindanao (Confed) said, however, that the government needs to be more transparent about its commitments on the ancestral domain agenda to the LGUs.

 "We have to know more so that we will not become a problem in the process," she said as some local officials expressed opposition to initial proposals, with others issuing statements that could possibly worsen the impasse situation.

Dureza said there was no intention to leave local governments in the dark. "It’s just that we have the impasse, but as soon as the talks resume, we can work on that," he said. But he said that in negotiations, “sometimes there is a need to keep your cards close to your chest".

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