Key issues on Mindanao peace process cited

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 April) – Power and wealth sharing, territory and transitional mechanisms and duration would remain the major bones of contention in the Mindanao peace process that the government wants to end this year, an official said.

Rosalie C. Romero, assistant secretary at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said last week the government expects to finish the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) within the year.

Speaking at a peace communication summit in Cotabato City before hundreds of journalists and members of civil society organizations in behalf of Peace Process Secretary Teresita Q. Deles, Romero appeared optimistic that a final peace accord can be forged not later than 2012.

“From current movements, we have basis for confidence that a peace agreement may be signed within the year,” Romero said in a speech emailed thereafter by the OPAPP communications group.

“The way ahead will be bumpy but the good thing is that both sides appear committed to engage at the negotiating table and not in the battlefield,” she said.

Romero cited that “neither side seems poised to walk away when the going gets rough.”

Peace talks between the government and the Moro rebels were slated to resume in Kuala Lumpur today (Monday) until Friday, with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) sitting as an observer.

This would be the 27th round of formal exploratory talks and the eighth under the Aquino administration, which resumed amity talks with the MILF in February 2011.

Last month, during the 26th exploratory talks also held in Malaysia, the third party mediator, the peace panels of the government and the MILF approved the request of the OIC’s Office of the Secretary General to sit as observer.

The 57-member pan-Islamic body brokered the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that led to the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

The MILF is a breakaway faction of the MNLF that today is the largest Islamic armed group in the Philippines.

With days before the 27th round of exploratory talks, Romero stressed the government realized that the search for a lasting peace in Mindanao cannot just focus on the negotiations between government and the MILF.

She said the peace process with the MILF faces what is perhaps a unique challenge – the reality that current negotiations involve the same core territory (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and the same people that are already the subject of a peace agreement with another group, the MNLF; and the reality that the FPA with the MNLF has already put in place an ARMM Regional Government, which practically everyone today agrees badly needs to be reformed.

The issue of peace in Mindanao was part of the 16-point agenda, articulated as no. 14, in President Benigno C. Aquino’s “Social Contract with the Filipino People” when he filed his candidacy in the 2010 polls.

It has become a national policy of the Aquino administration, through Chapter 9 of the Philippine Development Plan for 2010-2016 with the title “Peace and Security.”

The Aquino government’s peace agenda and development framework bears two major objectives: Track 1, which is the “negotiated political settlement of armed conflicts;” and the “Complementary Track, which seeks to address the causes of armed conflict and other issues that affect the peace process.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)