Japan urges gov’t, MILF to adhere to peace talks’ mechanisms

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/26 October) — Alarmed by the break out of skirmishes in some parts of Mindanao, the Japanese embassy in Manila has joined the calls for the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to adhere to the ceasefire mechanism to avoid the collapse of the peace process.

This as government forces launched air and ground operations in Zamboanga Sibugay against lawless elements supposedly hiding in MILF bailiwicks, displacing thousands of villagers.

“I wish to express my sincere condolences to those who lost their lives and their bereaved families. The recent firefights are a source of serious concern for me because it is jeopardizing the peace process,” Japanese ambassador Toshinao Urabe said in a statement Tuesday evening.

He expressed his “sincere wish that all parties respect the ceasefire and call upon the Government of the Philippines and the MILF to continue their efforts to advance the peace talks for the peace and prosperity of the whole community.”

Japan is a member of International Monitoring Team and the international Contact Group of the GPH-MILF peace process.

On August 4, President Benigno C. Aquino III and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim held a historic meeting in Japan to fast-track the forging of a final peace agreement.

But last week, violence flared up in Al Barka, Basilan between government and MILF forces, leaving 19 soldiers dead.

Ten more soldiers were killed in ensuing ambushes in Zamboanga Sibugay and Lanao del Norte in just a week.

Calls have mounted for Aquino to declare an all-out war against the MILF, especially after the Al Barka incident.

The military claimed that troops were pursuing criminal elements in the area but they clashed with MILF members. Lack of coordination with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group has been blamed for the encounter.

Instead of an all-out war declaration, the President said the government would be pursuing an “all-out justice” for the slain soldiers.

Japan was the second foreign country to come out this week with a formal statement enjoining the government and the MILF to abide by the ceasefire and continue with the peace talks.

Last Monday, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines urged the government and the MILF to strengthen their coordination to avoid deadly clashes and for the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to conduct an independent probe on recent skirmishes in some villages in three out of 26 Mindanao provinces.

The IMT is led by Malaysia, the peace talks facilitator.

The EU Delegation said it welcomes the call for the IMT to conduct an independent investigation on the incidents.

“Such an investigation would help the parties to determine whether there have been violations of the ceasefire agreement and violations of the international law and human rights,” the group said.

The EU Delegation also appealed to the parties to strengthen coordination through the Joint CCCH, they added.

The EU, a member of the IMT on rehabilitation and development, will continue to support peaceful efforts to achieve long-lasting peace in Mindanao, it said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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