GPH panel consults Tawi-Tawi local officials

Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, June 8 – Following their second leg of consultations with the local government units (LGUs) of Basilan, Zamboanga City and Sulu, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) negotiating panel on Tuesday consulted this time the local officials of Tawi-Tawi on their views regarding the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Held at the Provincial Capitol here, the dialogue was led by panel chair Marvic Leonen who was accompanied by panel members Senen Bacani, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and consultant Hamid Barra. They were joined by Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul A. Sahali, Vice Governor Ruby M. Sahali, chair of the government Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) BGen. Ariel Bernardo; head of the CCCH secretariat Maj. Carlos Sol, and senior military adviser BGen. Restituto Aguilar.

Tawi-Tawi, along with Basilan and Sulu, is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is included in the MILF’s proposed sub-state. The Moro group has been pushing for a “Bangsamoro sub-state,” which is an expanded territory including the ARMM provinces, while still recognizing one republic.

In his opening statement, Leonen told some 20 mayors, vice mayors and other local chief executives from different municipalities in Tawi-Tawi that, “We (GPH panel) are here to give you updates on the GPH-MILF peace process, as well as listen to your concerns.”

For his part, Gov. Sahali, in his opening remarks responded, “We are deeply honored and esteemed by your presence in Tawi-Tawi to hold a consultation in order to get the views of local officials on how to work for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao and in the whole country.”

The Governor highly commended the “initiative of the peace panel” for exercising transparency and inclusivity in the process. “We are thankful for the opportunity to participate in the peace process,” he said.

Vice Governor Sahali likewise gave a message, saying “We always dream for peace in Mindanao. If there’s peace, then there’s development.”

The consultation included an open forum where Gov. Sahali urged the local officials of the province to “Express your ideas on how to attain peace in Mindanao because peace is vital for the development of our communities.”

The local executives articulated their issues and concerns on the peace negotiations during this part of the program.

Leonen told local officials that the government is set to submit its proposal for a politically negotiated settlement to the MILF during the next round of formal exploratory talks on June 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

To-date, the panel has already conducted 31 consultations with different sectors in Mindanao. #