PNoy to meet with Malaysian PM; hopes for a “breakthrough” within term

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 September) – President Benigno S. Aquino has confirmed arrangements are being made for a meeting between him and  Prime Minister Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia, to discuss the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which Malaysia is facilitating.

He told reporters after his meetings at the Marco Polo hotel Thursday afternoon that arrangements are being made for the two leaders to meet this month. The world’s leaders will gather next week in New York for the United Nations General Assembly which will discuss, among others, accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Thursday morning at the inauguration of  a hydroelectric power plant in Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, Aquino told reporters in an ambush interview that the prospects for peace are brighter after the meeting Tuesday with Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj Aman.

“At least to my estimation we will achieve a breakthrough during our time,” he said.

The President in his State of the Nation Address on July 26, had expressed hope the talks could resume “after Ramadan.” Ramadan ended September 9.

Aquino told reporters Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has the details on the schedules as “certain formalities” have to be done before the peace panels can meet.

Deles had told MindaNews Wednesday that the talks could start “before November,” after the meeting between President Aquino and the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Deles had said the Malaysian Foreign Minister met with President Aquino on Tuesday “to convey Prime Minister Najib’s positive intentions for Malaysia to continue to assist the GRP-MILF peace process.”

Deles said “further exchanges will take place including a possible meeting of the two leaders to personally discuss the matter.”

Deles did not say when the possible meeting between the two heads of state would be but MindaNews noted there are many possibilities this month and early next month.

President Aquino is leaving for the United States on September 19 to attend the UNGAin  New York and the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting.

He is scheduled to return to the country on September 27 but will leave again for Belgium on October 2 for the Asia-Europe Meeting.

“As of this time, the GRP panel has completed its preparations for  the resumption of talks. We are hopeful that the first meeting can be held before November,” said Deles.

Fifteen days after assuming his post, President Aquino named lawyer Marvic Leonen, Dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Law as government peace panel chair.

Leonen’s panel is composed of  former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani who served under President Cory Aquino, UP Political Science Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Upi Vice Mayor Ramon Piang and the new head of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

The MILF on Monday announced the composition of its new peace panel.

Mohagher Iqbal, who chaired the panel since late July 2003 when MILF vice chair for military affairs Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, then the peace panel chair, assumed the post of MILF chair following the death of Salamat Hashim, will continue to chair the panel, the MILF’s website, said.

Also retained along with Iqbal are senior panel member Datu Michael Mastura and panel member Maulana Alonto. Lawyers Lanang Ali and Musib Buat have been replaced “purely for health reasons,” by Abdullah Camlian, former head of the MILF peace panel’s technical committee and Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies.

B’laan datu Antonio Kinoc of Columbio, Sulltan Kudarat, a former member of the MILF peace panel’s technical working group and an alternate member of the panel representing the indigenous peoples, will also continue to serve as alternate member. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)