GRP, MILF to craft interim pact in early May but ok return of ‘bakwits’ and dealing with UXOs

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) – No interim agreement was signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the end of the two-day 18th Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur Wednesday but the parties vowed to meet again in early May to “craft the interim document.”

The two panels on Tuesday exchanged amended draft proposals and matrices for the interim agreement which MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described as “far apart.”

But the crafting of the two-page, 10-paragraph Joint Statement appears to have been carefully  studied as it lumped in one paragraph only, the discussions on the draft interim agreements.

The Joint Statement said the parties “formally exchanged amended draft proposals and matrices,   discussed their proposals and agreed on areas of common ground, subject to endorsement by the Panels to their respective principals. This would be the basis of crafting the interim document in early May 2010.”

What the “areas of common ground” are, the Joint Statement did not specify.

But MindaNews sources from both parties said the two drafts “do have some similarities but there are more differences.”

Among the similarities are the provisions on protection of rights of indigenous peoples, independent monitoring  and evaluaton, the sources said.

The Joint Statement also said that the two panels had agreed to: work  together for the swift return of the remaining internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao; to refer to the International Monitoing Team (IMT) Head of Mission the proposed terms of reference to govern the operations of the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) in consultation with the four members of the CPC, representatives of the GRP and MILF Peace Panels and in coordination with their respective CCCH (Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities)  for later submission to the Facilitator and approval of the Parties.

The Parties also reiterated their invitation to the Royal Norwegian Government to join the IMT  “with a specific coordinating role of the CPC.”

The two panels tasked the CCCH “to help ensure the safety and security of returning evacuees by accompanying them to their respective areas of origin, in close coordination with local government units concerned, the IMT, and other concerned agencies. The Parties also called on other civil society groups and NGOs to assist.”

At least 600,000 were displaced starting August 2008  following the aborted signing of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.  The Joint Statement said “approximately 100,000 are still in evacuation centers.”

The panels also discussed the implementing guidelines of the project on the clearing of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in conflict-affected areas to be undertaken jointly by the GRP and MILF CCCH, the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD).

The panels agreed to mobilize technical and administrative resources including a facility for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) as a capacity building center for emerging Bangsamoro leaders and professionals.

The Parties reached a consensus to enhance operational support arrangements for the CCCH and the AHJAG. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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