Government, MILF meet in KL to clarify issues

The government peace panel has not released details about the new proposal but gave assurances it focused on “self-determination.”

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair told MindaNews in a telephone interview that the December 1 meeting in Kuala Lumpur “was not a resumption (of talks).”

But he acknowledged “there was an understanding.” He, however, stressed there was no formal decision as yet as they have refer the matter to the MILF Central Committee.

Iqbal and his team arrived from Kuala Lumpur today. The government panel returned to Manila on December 2.

It being an “informal” meeting, the panels issued no joint statement.

Iqbal and government peace panel vice chair Rudy Rodil declined to give details of the “understanding” but Iqbal said, “there is considerable level of understanding each other’s framework.”

Rodil told MindaNews they are hopeful the peace talks can resume soon.

“We talked about the peace talks. It was not a resumption, it was not exploratory talks. The most was backchanneling but we didn’t call it that,” Iqbal told MindaNews.

Lawyer and historian, Datu Michael Mastura, MILF peace panel member told MindaNews the meeting was just for “question and answer.”

“It was about ‘talking the talks,’… question and answer about the new (government) proposal,” he said.

The government and MILF peace panels failed to break the impasse on the issue of territory in their September 6 to 7 exploratory talks. The government panel offered 613 predominantly Moro towns and villages to the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE)  in addition to the core territory of the  five-province, one-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), subject to “constitutional processes,” which the MILF objected to.

Mastura had earlier said the Bangsamoro people, not the majority non-Moro, who should be made to decide in a referendum if they want to be part of this juridical entity or not.

Since the mid-1970s, the Philippine government has subjected residents in the supposed areas of autonomy listed under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976,  to a plebiscite thrice – in the late 1977,  in 1989 and in 2001, to find out if they want to be part of the autonomous reigon.

The government submitted a new proposal on November 9, after seeking a postponement until November 15, having failed to beat the September 30 and later October 31 deadlines.

The government peace panel was represented in the December 1 talks by chair Silvestre Afable, Jr.; vice chair Rodil; lawyer Bong Montessa and government panel executive director Ryan Mark Sullivan. The MILF peace panel was represented by chair Mohagher Iqbal and lawyer Michael Mastura with Mike Pasigan and Akmad Mama as staff members.

The December 1 meet was facilitated by Dato’ Othman bin Abdu’ Razak, special advisor to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

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