GPH, MILF to meet anew in Feb; Leonen says they have “inched forward but not fast enough”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 January) — The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels will meet again next month to thresh out details of  a proposed peace agreement that government hopes to forge by end of March.

But government panel chair Marvic Leonen in a press statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  at 11:15 p.m. January 11,  appeared dismayed by the slow progress of the talks.
“We have inched forward but not fast enough,” Leonen said as he expressed concern “on the very slight movement” in the negotiations.

The two panels ended their three-day  peace talks in Kuala Lumpur at 5:10 p.m. today (Wednesday), claiming in a joint statement that they had “constructive discussions on substantive issues” on power-sharing, among others, and have considered drafting “roadmaps towards a resolution of the Bangsamoro Question.”

 

The OPAPP  press release also quoted Leonen as saying “the government was earnest in moving towards the crafting of a peace agreement. That would have been the best move forward for both panels.”
The five paragraph statement signed by Leonen and Iqbal said the parties had “constructive discussions on substantive issues,” among them the  “concept of governance and the listing of reserved powers of the national government, as contained in their respective drafts.”

“Both parties clarified their positions, tentatively identified areas of common ground and agreed to consult with their principals on outstanding issues.”

The statement was silent on what  positions were clarified, what “areas of common ground” were identified and what the “outstanding issues” are.

The government peace panel wants a peace agreement forged within the first quarter this year.

In his opening statement last Monday, Leonen said that in government’s reckoning, “the golden opportunity to craft such an agreement is this first quarter of this year.”

“We think that this is possible.  Share with us this vision.  Within this first quarter, let us attempt to craft an agreement,” he said.

Iqbal in his opening statement said. “unless we are sincere, dedicated, and work hard and in double time, we cannot beat the deadline, although the MILF is not necessarily bound by this timeline. But if we can do it, why choose the longer way?”

“We want to finish this process as soon as possible and give our people the much sought-for-peace, which they never experienced since 1578 when Spain started the Moro-Spanish War that lasted for 320 years. I sincerely hope that the Aquino administration would reciprocate and, in partnership, we put in place real autonomy in the future Moro political entity,” Iqbal said..

The two panels are trying to craft a peace agreement that would  address the historical injustices and the aspirations of the Bangsamoro for “real autonomy.”

“We have mentioned principled, just, political opportunities and strong foundations for a long-standing solution to the Bangsamoro question during the negotiations as government’s firm commitment to the peace process,”  the OPAPP statement quoted Leonen as saying.

Leonen stressed. “we have laid our cards on the table.”

He said that while the negotiations continue, “the government will go full blast with its other option – continuing the transformation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”
The “transformation of the ARMM” is part of the three-for-one proposed peace formula that the government handed over to the MILF  peace panel on August 22. The MILF rejected the proposal.

The MILF peace panel refers to the ARMM as a “sham autonomy.”
President Aquino met with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on August 4 in Tokyo, Japan. During the historic meeting, both agreed to fast-track the peace process to ensure the agreement forged by both panels will be implemented within the remaining years of the Aquino administration.

The President bows out of office noon of June 30, 2016. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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