Progress made in 10-day GPH-MILF talks but no annex signed

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 September) – The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended their ten-day talks Friday afternoon in Kuala Lumpur with none of the two remaining annexes signed.

The two panels, however, signed a Joint Statement “welcoming the gradual return to normalcy in the lives of the people of Zamboanga City” and acknowledging the “challenge.. to ensure that the peace process… should make a lasting contribution to the task of building peace and understanding among all peoples in Mindanao.”

The eight-paragraph statement said there was progress in the negotiations “despite the gravity and difficulty of the issues.”
Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, however, hinted on September 19 that the two annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization, would not be finished in this 40th round of exploratory talks since the 2003 war but the 20th under the three-year Aquino administration .

“In all honesty, the negotiations in the past few days have been difficult. We constantly tether between big ideals and realistic possibilities; between ‘ours’ in the exclusive sense to ‘ours,’ inclusive.

 

But in doing so, we have been able to achieve better understanding across the table and to work out compromises,” she said in a 22-paragraph statement, most of which were on government’s efforts to make the GPH-MILF peace process inclusive of all groups, including Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction.

She explained that it is taking them a long time to thresh out the details in the last two annexes but it is “necessary to ensure that the end results will bring about positive change and less conflicts. Not the other way around.”

“Please keep the faith with us in this process,” Ferrer said.

The panels began their 10-day talks in Kuala Lumpur on September 10, a day after some 200 MNLF forces under founding chair Nur Misuari laid siege on at least four of 98 villages in Zamboanga City, holding hostage at least 170 residents.

Day One of the talks ended with a Joint Statement signed by both condemning “in the strongest terms the violence concurrently being inflicted in Zamboanga City.”

“The perpetrators must be stopped and held accountable for their acts,” the statement read, adding that those behind the continued acts of violence in Mindanao “do not want the current peace process between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to succeed. Their actions intend to derail the process using violence and disinformation to spread fear and chaos in Mindanao.”

Ten days

“Mahirap talaga,” (It’s really difficult), MILF peace panel chair Mohagher said of the just concluded negotiations.

Both panels had agreed in August to meet for ten days this month to finish the annexes. Two other annexes – Transitional Arrangements and Modalities; and Wealth-Sharing – were signed in February and July, respectively.

Iqbl told MindaNews they spent “seven or eight days” on the Annex on Power-sharing and that the number of consensus points has increased. He cited an estimate but asked that it be off the record.

The parties also reached several consensus points on the Annex on Normalization, he said.

Canada heads Independent Commission on Policing

The panels on February 27 this year signed the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP).

The ICP was convened by the Parties on September 10, Day One of the talks.  As agreed, the ICP shall start work by mid-October.

The ICP is provided in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that the parties signed in Malacanang on October 15, 2012. The FAB provides that the “status quo is unacceptable” and that the parties would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity named the Bangsamoro.

Under the FAB’s Chapter VIII on Normalization, the parties agreed that the Independent Commission be organized “to recommend appropriate policing within the area.”

The FAB provides that the Commission “shall be composed of representatives from the parties and may invite local and international experts on law enforcement to assist the commission in its work.”

Randal J. Beck, Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), has been appointed Chair of the ICP

“We are honored to see a Canadian chosen to play such an integral role in such an important process,” Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines Christopher Thornley said in a press statement.

“As a senior member of the RCMP, he comes with vast amounts of experience and knowledge, an informed perspective and the kind of leadership skills that will serve the ICP well as they move forward in developing their recommendations,” he added.

“It is with a sense of pride and purpose that I accept the role as Chair of the ICP, and am ready for the challenge,” the statement quoted Beck as saying.

“I look forward to working with the respective panel chairs and ICP members to develop the recommendations that could best serve all vested interests,” he said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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