Britain lauds dev’t in Mindanao peace process

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 April)—The British government lauded Friday the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for reaching consensus points in the Mindanao peace process.

In a statement, British Foreign Affairs Secretary William Hague said the parties’ signing of a 10-point agreement is a welcome development to the decades-old peace negotiations.

“I welcome the progress which the latest round of peace talks made earlier this week in Kuala Lumpur,” Hague said.

“We are working in support of President Aquino’s efforts to resolve tensions in the Philippines through the Mindanao peace process, along with Malaysia, Brunei and other international partners”, he added.

In Manila, British Ambassador Stephen Lillie echoed Hague’s words. “There is still a lot of hard work to be done to reach a final agreement in Mindanao. But this week’s developments give a boost to confidence. They demonstrate that progress towards a just and lasting peace in Mindanao remains possible.”

Britain is a member of the International Contact Group along with the governments of Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia and international NGOs The Asia Foundation, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, and Muhammadiyah.

The ICG was created to complement the work of the Malaysian facilitator, particularly to aid in maintaining a level of comfort and mutual trust between the negotiating parties.

Diplomats from the British Embassy-Manila and British High Commission-Kuala Lumpur were present at this week’s talks.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles has emphasized that the Decision Points on Principles reached by the government and the MILF will “pave the way for the eventual signing of a final peace agreement.”

The negotiation may be “tough and serious, but its goals and direction is not vague,” she said in a separate statement.

“I hope the signed document (Decision Points on Principles)— which lays out the common standpoints between the GPH panel and the MILF panel—explains where we are and what we want to establish to politically resolve the decades-old armed conflict in the south,” Deles added.

The peace adviser noted that the “possibility of signing an agreement depends on the common grounds. The recently signed document by the parties manifest the common principles in the negotiation acceptable to both towards reaching a peace agreement.”

Deles noted that the “parties will work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).”

Marvic F. Leonen, government chief negotiator, clarified that the parties are still continuing discussions on substantive issues on the details of governance and the relationship of the autonomous entity with the national government.

He added that such entity will definitely be within the Republic of the Philippines.

Leonen emphasized that the GPH is making the recently signed document public as part of its policy for inclusivity and transparency so that the people can “discuss, debate and provide inputs.”

He said that they hope to sign a peace agreement with the MILF “with due and deliberate speed.”

“Due time means we will sign as soon as possible because we need to address the roots of armed conflict so the development in the region and the entire country can be aided by this peace process,” Leonen said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)