GPH, MILF peace panels meet in KL

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 November) – The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels are meeting in Kuala Lumpur today, 72 days after they adjourned their talks on August 23.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles confirmed the meeting.

“Yes, meeting currently ongoing today in KL. It is an informal meeting which was originally agreed upon to discuss how to move substantive negotiations forward, following submission of GPH proposal to MILF,” Deles told MindaNews in a text message.

But “in light of crucial issues arising from the Al-barka incident, we expect that important matter to be discussed also,” she said.

MindaNews sources said the “3 plus 1” meeting started at 9:30 a.m. at the Executive Boardroom of the Royale Chulan Hotel, the same room used by the GPH and MILF peace panels for the talks on August 22 and 23. The negotiations then were scheduled until the 24th but adjourned on shortly before noon of August 23.

But unlike the August talks where the table arrangement was formal — the five-person panels facing each other, the Malaysian facilitator and staff on another side and members of the International Contact Group facing the facilitator  — today’s physical arrangement is rather informal in that it involves sofa sets instead, a source said.

Attending the “3 plus 1” meeting for the government peace panel are chair Marvic Leonen, members Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Senen Bacani and Iona Jalijali, head of the peace panel. Secretariat.

Attending for the MILF are chair Mohagher Iqbal, members Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto and Jun Mantawil, head of the peace panel secretariat.

Last meeting

The last time the GPH and MILF peace panels met was on August 22 and 23. The meeting was a full-panel meeting – attended by the five-person-each panels.

The government peace panel submitted its proposed peace settlement – the so-called “3 for 1” formula — on August 22 but this was rejected by the MILF peace panel on August 23.

Leonen summarized the government’s “3 for 1” formula as massive economic development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); political settlement with the MILF; and cultural-historical acknowledgment.

The MILF peace panel then said that they were recommending to the MILF Central Committee, the rejection of the proposal claiming the gap between the MILF proposal submitted on February 10 and the GPH proposal submitted on August 22 was like “heaven and earth.”

In a press conference in the afternoon of August 23 at the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Leonen said “it depends on who is looking at this gap, and on what prism or what filter to use.. of course from our perspective we think it is very workable. This gap is very workable. In other words, it is not too far apart. Of course from the statement made by the MILF, it appears to be a very wide chasm.”

He said these perspectives should be brought to the negotiating table so they can discuss them and move forward.

Iqbal told MindaNews  on August 23 that their proposal, which includes the Bangsamoro sub-state, was “a product of 10 years of negotiations and so many compromises already.”

“One significant compromise is we removed (from our draft) the option to secede,” he said, adding the government’s proposal was “way below our expectation.”

Iqbal said the negotiations would not be fast-tracked “if we use their draft.”

President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had met in Japan on August 4 upon the invitation of the former. Both agreed to fast-track the negotiations so that implementation can be done within  the term of the Aquino administration. The President serves until June 30, 2016.

The Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, shuttled between the panels two weeks after the adjournment, to try to narrow down the gap and find some common ground. But since the visit of the Malaysian facilitator, both the GPH and MILF peace panels had kept mum about the peace process.

Al-barka

Despite the tension brought about by the MILF’s rejection of the government’s peace proposal on August 23, no armed confrontation between the panels’ armed forces has been reported until the October 18 tragedy in Al-barka Basilan where 19 soldiers were killed and 12 others were injured. On the side of the MILF, spokesperson Von al Haq said five MILF guerrillas were killed and two others were injured.

Both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire agreement in Basilan. The MILF claimed the military should have coordinated with them through the ceasefire mechanisms while the military claimed there was no need to coordinate allegedly because the area of incident was not an MILF area.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) last week announced it would conduct a probe next week in Basilan and Zmboanga Sibugay with the ceasefire committees and joint action groups of the government and MILF, to look into the allegations of ceasefire violations and lack of coordination.

As of 3:30 p.m. the two panels have yet to announce what transpired during the meeting today.

Deles said the GPH-MILF panel representatives were on lunch break at around 2 p.m. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

TO BE UPDATED

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