Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Philippines, MILF rebels back on negotiating table again

Muslim children join calls for peace in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)



MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2009) – The Philippines have revived the stalled peace talks with Muslim rebels in an effort to end decades of bloody fighting in the troubled region of Mindanao.

Peace negotiators have ended a two-day meeting on Wednesday in Malaysia, which is brokering the talks and have agreed to revive the Muslim homeland deal.

In a joint statement, the government negotiators headed by Rafael Seguis and the MILF peace panel led by Mohagher Iqbal have agreed to sustain the cease-fire agreement.

The also acknowledged that the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain as unsigned and yet initialed document, and committed to reframe the consensus points with the end in view of moving towards the comprehensive compact to bring about a negotiated political settlement.

Both sides would also work for a framework agreement on the establishment of a mechanism on the protection of non-combatants in armed conflict and another framework agreement on the establishment of International Contact Group which would be composed of states and non-state organizations to accompany and mobilize international support for the peace process.

Those who attended the meeting were Philippine Undersecretary Bong Montessa, Director Mark Ryan Sullivan, and one staff member from the Filipino embassy in Kuala Lumpur. While on the MILF side were lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, Maulana Bobby Alonto and Jun Mantawil.
The negotiators also discussed the government’s suspension of all military offensives which excluded three senior MILF commanders - Ameril Kato, Abdurahman Macapaar and Sulaiman Pangalian.

The trio was tagged as behind deadly attacks on civilian targets in Mindanao last year after the peace talks collapsed. It was unknown whether the military would continue its operations against the three rebel leaders.

“The Chairmen of the GRP and the MILF Peace Panels re-established official contact today under the auspices of the Malaysian Third Party Facilitator, to end nearly a year of impasse in the peace negotiations, and to complete the preparation for the resumption of the Talks,” the joint statement said.

“The two-day special meeting ended on a high note with both sides expressing a common desire to restore trust and confidence in addressing major issues in order to pave way for the early resumption of the stalled peace negotiations,” it added.

The statement also praised Filipino President Gloria Arroyo for her desire and commitment to durable peace and sustainable development in Mindanao and to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his generous and steadfast support and assistance to the pursuit of those goals.

“Their joint efforts largely contributed to this significant advancement in the GRP-MILF peace process,” it further said.

"We hope to put an end to the hostilities in Mindanao and bring peace to everyone," Iqbal told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from Kuala Lumpur.

The MILF previously said it would only resume the peace talks if Arroyo honors the Muslim ancestral domain deal that negotiators initially signed in July last year in Kuala Lumpur.

Arroyo scrapped the homeland deal after the Supreme Court stopped the formal signing of the accord that would have granted some four million Muslims their own homeland in more than 700 villages across Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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