GPH-MILF talks moved to September due to state funeral for Robredo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 August) – Peace negotiations between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resume in Kuala Lumpur in September instead of  August 27 to 30,  in deference to the  state funeral for Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo.

The two panels last met on August 7 to 11 and agreed to meet again this week.

The government peace panel sought the postponement of the talks which was relayed to the MILF peace panel by Malaysian facilitator,  Dato Tengku Abd’ Ghaafar bin Mohamed, evening of August 24, the MILF website, luwaran.com said.

“Without the slightest hesitation, the MILF agreed to  the postponement,” the report said, adding MILF peace panel members who were supposed to fly to Manila en route to KL had cancelled their flights

No date has been set but both panels agreed to meet in early September.

Robredo was returning to Naga City from Cebu City when the Cessna Piper Seneca plane he was riding in crashed off Masbate shortly before 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 18. His aide, Capt. Jun Abrazado,  survived the crash and was rescued by a fisherman while search and rescue operations were launched to look for Robredo and the two pilots.

They were found on Tuesday, August 21, inside the aircraft some 800 meters off the coast of Masbate, at a depth of 180 feet. Robredo’s body was retrieved in the morning while the body of the pilot, Capt. Jessup Bajenting of Aviatours, was brought to shore that evening. The body of the co-pilot, Kshitiz Chand, was found floating in the vicinity of the crash site the next morning.

Robredo will be buried in Naga City on August 28.

The MILF had earlier extended its condolences to Robredo’s family and the Aquino administration.

Luwaran.com quoted Iqbal as saying Robredo’s death “is not only a loss to the family and relatives and to the Aquino administration but also to the peace-making in Mindanao.”

“I knew Robredo personally when we happened to be invited at a forum on peace process in Penang, Malaysia earlier this year and even at first impression, he was an amiable person,” Iqbal said.

“May the family have the strength in this most difficult moment,” Iqbal said in a statement on August 22.

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the support given by Robredo to the peace process “will live on.”

“Not many knew that he was a quiet peacebuilder who made sure conflict-affected communities feel an honest and responsive government working hard to deliver the fruits of reforms,” Deles said in a statement on August 21, adding they will “continue waging a just and lasting peace as a tribute to his legacy.”

The two panels are expected to continue negotiations on the  transition mechanism for the new political entity, power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization.

The panels’ Technical Working Groups on wealth-sharing and power-sharing are also expected  to fly to Kuala Lumpur for the next round of talks.

Government peace pane chair Marvic Leonen and the MILF’s Iqbal have expressed optimism they would be able to sign a peace agreement soon.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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