GPH-MILF talks moved to April

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – The second exploratory talks under the nine-month old Aquino administration  between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) scheduled on March 29 and 30 in Kuala Lumpur has been moved to April 27 and 28.

Government peace panel chair Dean Marvic Leonen said the postponement was on request of the Malaysian facilitator, a March 15 press statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said.

The reason for the postponement was not indicated in the press release.

MindaNews checked with Leonen on the reason cited by the facilitator. He told MindaNews the facilitator said “he needs to attend to other functions.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews they have been notified on the postponement.

The MILF with the facilitation of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, held a series of consultations with non-Moro leaders from various sectors in Cotabato City on March 6 and 9 and in Marawi City on March 14.

The two panels met on February 9 and 10 for their first exploratory talks under the Aquino administration, although the 20th since the peace talks, interrupted by the 2003 war under the Arroyo administration, resumed.

In the first talks, the two panels renewed the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for another year.

The IMT, which monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF, is composed of military contingents from Malaysian, Brunei and Libya and development and rehabilitation experts from Japan, the European Union and Norway.

The new batch of Malaysian military contingent in the IMT, which arrived last week, is the 6th since its deployment in 2004.
The MILF during the talks also presented its revised draft peace agreement to the government.

The OPAPP report noted that in a peace forum last week at the University of the Philippines (UP) Faculty Center in Diliman, Quezon City, Leonen cited the issues they will raise in the next talks.

“These include the concern on Commander Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, who allegedly broke away from the MILF and formed his own armed group; and the Moro group’s draft Comprehensive Compact, which contains their positions on substantive issues,” the OPAPP report said.
In the case of Kato, the OPAPP report quoted Leonen as saying it is “an internal problem” that the MILF is dealing with and that the MILF “is now conducting its own negotiations inside the group.”

He said he considers the revised draft agreement the MILF handed over to the government peace panel “an articulation of their positions, not as a working draft for the negotiations.”

After the talks in February, Leonen described the MILF’s draft comprehensive pact as “not a document seeking independence or secession from the Republic of the Philippines.”

He said the document “sees the possibility of Filipino citizenship with a Bangsamoro identity and defining a territory of only about 7 to 9 per cent of their historical claims.”

“This is the starting position of the MILF. It’s not that radical and it looks like it’s going for a win-win and principled agreement,” he said.
MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal listed an 11-point description of the draft they submitted, the 11th stating it is a “win win formula that benefits not only Moros and the indigenous peoples, but also the Filipinos and the government in Manila.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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