GPH, MILF peace talks: one day more

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/03 October) –  One more day.
The Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels today agreed to extend by one more day the ongoing negotiations to finalize the framework agreement that they hope to sign within the month.
The panels had earlier scheduled the talks from October 2 to 5.

Whether or not Saturday, October 6, will be the day the panels will declare that the framework agreement is done and ready for signing will depend on developments and consultations with their respective principals in the next two days.

What is certain, however, is that both panels agree they are “almost there.”
“We cannot postpone any longer. Now is the time,” GPH panel  chair Marvic Leonen said in his opening statement on Tuesday.

“Let us persevere, respect our differences but engage our best creativity in finding commonalities despite the differences.  Now is the time to fulfill our promises to our people.  Let us look forward to test our ability to implement, encounter difficulties we could not have foreseen, adjust, build trust, build confidence and work further together. This is not something we want to do.  It is something that we need to do,” he said.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher  Iqbal acknowledged the negotiations are now on the homestretch “and the smell of success is reinforced every day.”
“We all know this, because we are the ones involved in this negotiation,” he said, adding, “we also know that the unsettled issues are not insurmountable; they are well within our grasp. If we persevere and remain reasonable, we will have it soon, God willing!”

No repeat of MOA-AD fate

Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had repeatedly said the framework agreement, described by Leonen as “the mother agreement,” will be published first before the signing, apparently to avoid the debacle that was the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
The MOA-AD was initialed on July 27, 2008 by then GPH panel chair Rodolfo Garcia, MILF peace panel chair Iqbal, then Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman Abdul Razak, and then Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon. The formal signing of the MOA-AD was August 5 in Kuala Lumpur but the signing was aborted because the Supreme Court in the afternoon of August 4 issued a temporary restraining order, barring the government panel from signing what petitioners said was a document kept under wraps.

“We will not sign anything without disclosing text in advance,” Deles told MindaNews last week.
ARMM to NAPE

Also last week, Iqbal told MindaNews that the negotiations were “moving forward quite fast” with only two more issues that are “most contentious” –  territory and internal security. He declined to elaborate.

One of the questions raised on the issue of territory is if the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would still be subjected to a plebiscite   on whether or not they want to be part of the future New Autonomous Political Entity (NAPE) that would replace the ARMM.

The April 24, 2012 GPH-MILF Decision Points provided, among others, that the two panels would work for the creation of a NAPE in place of the now 22-year old ARMM.

Elections in the ARMM will proceed as scheduled on May 13, 2003 while the two panels work on the transition mechanisms leading to the creation of the NAPE by 2016.

OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman attended the opening session Tuesday at the Palace of the Goden Horses here. He also  dropped by Wednesday.

This was the third time Hataman, the President’s choice to run for ARMM Governor in 2013, attended the peace talks here.

Chances, Risks

In his opening remarks on Tuesday, Leonen said, “the chances of finding an agreement is highest when we opt to focus on what we can agree upon rather than the fundamental differences that we will normally have.”

“Negotiated political settlements occur when there are leaders with clearer but loftier visions of ways through which their pluralistic societies exist with toleration, democracy and development. Our principals, those of the MILF as well as that of government, are such leaders,” he said.

 

Iqbal acknowledged “we will be in trouble” if the negotiations are not successfully concluded.

“Remember that negotiation, contrary to what many believe, is a risky business. If we cannot conclude it soon successfully now that we are at the brink of the exercise, we will be in trouble,” he said.

For Iqbal, the “greatest source of risk” are the spoilers whom he defined as “leaders and parties who believe that peace emerging from negotiations threatens their power, worldview, and interests, and use violence to undermine attempts to achieve it.”

He also noted the need to “manage expectations” of the people because “the higher the expectation, the higher also the frustrations if they are not met.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

 

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