EU wants early Mindanao peace deal

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/10 February) – Ambassadors from member-countries of the European Union have reiterated their support to the Mindanao peace process, and urged at the same time for a speedy forging of a final peace agreement.

The regional bloc currently provides P180 million in grants to the peace process between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

EU Head of Delegation Guy Ledoux and ambassadors Wilhelm Donko of Austria, Jorge Domecq of Spain and Stephen Lillie of the United Kingdom came to Cotabato City Wednesday to voice anew the bloc’s support to the peace talks.

“Our visit to Mindanao demonstrates the EU’s strong support for the Mindanao peace process. A peaceful settlement to the conflict is essential for the Philippines’ economic and social development, and we commend the GPH and MILF panels on their efforts so far,” Ledoux said in a statement.

The EU is currently providing P180 million in grants under its Instrument for Stability which supports the International Monitoring Team (IMT), as well as local and international NGOs involved in both the civilian protection component of the IMT and the International Contact Group.

This grant funding is a reiteration of the European Union’s commitment to peace-making and peace-building through mediation, dialogue and reconciliation, to improve the response to conflict-affected populations’ humanitarian needs and enhance the respect for their humanitarian and human rights, the statement said.

Overall, the EU and its member states are among the largest contributors to the peace-building efforts in Mindanao and the single largest donor to the Mindanao Trust Fund with a contribution of P490 million.

The EU is aware that once a peace agreement is signed many challenges will still remain to ensure that peace in Mindanao is lasting, the statement said.

“Issues such as the rule of law and governance will become central in the post-agreement period. Addressing them will require strong and capable leadership from all those concerned,” it added.

The visiting EU team urged the parties to intensify their negotiations to reach a settlement at the earliest possible moment.

The EU believes that the timing is right for a decisive push towards an agreement and that such an opportunity must not be missed.

In support of efforts to achieve peace, the EU will continue to address the development needs of Mindanao, to which it has already channeled P9 billion since the 1990s, the statement said.

The EU delegates reminded the parties that the conflict has an enormous cost on the region and that economic development will only be possible with peace.

According to a recent World Bank and World Food Programme survey, 41% of the households surveyed in mainland Mindanao experienced displacement in the last ten years, almost a third of them for more than a year.

Such displacements have considerable costs and represent a major barrier to effective development efforts, the group said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)