Malaysia gives nod on resumption of GRP-MILF talks — Mangudadatu

But Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu told reporters here Sunday there is still no definite date as to when the talks would resume. He said it is up to Malaysia to set the next meeting.

 

The governor’s call came just shortly after a series of skirmishes between soldiers and Moro rebels in Midsayap, Cotabato province. At least 6,000 residents have evacuated fearing that Air Force planes will bomb rebel positions

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Sporadic clashes that started Thursday left three militiamen killed and several others wounded. Two soldiers and some civilians were also wounded. There were no casualties reported on the side of the rebels.

 

Both parties, however, responded to the IMT’s call for an emergency meeting and temporarily stop the fighting.

 

Mangudadatu said the government has done the preparatory work for the resumption of the talks, adding that panel members met last Jan. 16 and 24 to discuss the government’s position. But he declined to give details of the meeting.

 

Mangudadatu said he is optimistic the peace negotiations will be over soon.

 

Talks have been stalled after the parties failed to resolve the scope of territory under the ticklish ancestral domain agenda for the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

 

In their last meeting in Kuala Lumpur Sept. 6 and 7 last year, the MILF rejected the government’s offer for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and 613 Muslim-dominated barangays in Mindanao to be under the juridical entity.

 

The expansion areas have to be submitted to the constitutional process, which is not acceptable to MILF negotiators.

 

Mangudadatu said he wanted his province to be under the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity so that Sultan Kudarat could benefit from the billions of pesos that would be poured to the area. “But it will be our people who will speak through a plebiscite,” he added.

 

He said that in the upcoming 14th exploratory talks, the government hopes to make a significant advance for a lasting peace that would bring about desired economic development in the island.

 

Various quarters from Mindanao have been urging the government and the MILF to break the impasse in the talks.

 

Ishak Mastura, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry in the ARMM, said that investors look at the risks of the location. “The uncertainty of the resolution of the peace talks due to the impasse is surely the biggest risk for investors now. The threat of war or renewed hostilities will make investors think twice about investing in Mindanao,” he said.

 

He said the impasse is “very bad” for business confidence in Mindanao.

 

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the stalled talks was due to the government panel’s insistence to have the peace deal undergo a constitutional process.

 

He claimed that in the more than 70 or so signed documents between the two parties since January 7, 1997, the words “constitution,” “sovereignty”, “territorial integrity” have never appeared or written on paper.

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