New formula emerges in GPH-MILF peace talks PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2011 17:13

There is no mention of “three for one” or “Bangsamoro substate”  in the ongoing three-day peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but a new peace formula is emerging from both proposals laid down on the negotiating table.

Like it was on Monday, members of the two panels, the International Contact Group and the Malaysian facilitator were in a jovial mood as they stepped out of the Executive Boardroom to break for lunch. A “three plus one” executive session was held from 9:45 to 11:55 a.m. at the boardroom involving three members and the secretariat head each with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.

From Monday to Tuesday noon, representatives from all parties in the talks have repeatedly said the discussions have been “positive” and “we’re moving forward.”
No one wants to be quoted at this stage but in conversations with MindaNews,  a new peace formula is apparently emerging from the seven-hour discussions on Monday and  the two-hour executive session on Tuesday morning.

Details of that peace formula are still being worked out by the two panels. And while there are still contentious issues that have to be addressed to clear the pathway, they have at least agreed on the path to take.

In August, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described the gap between the government’s and MILF’s proposed peace settlement as “heaven and earth.” Government (GPH) peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said it was “not too far apart.”

The MILF peace panel rejected the government’s “three for one” formula, prompting Leonen to also “reject the rejection.” The talks were adjourned a day earlier.

The Malaysian facilitator shuttled between the panels in September and October leading to the November 3 “three plus one” executive meeting here in Kuala
Lumpur which got the two panels talking casually, not across the negotiating table but in an informal setting, sitting in comfortable chairs, wearing casual clothes.

That Nov. 3 meeting led to the agreement “to move forward on the substantive agenda” of the talks and meet again “very soon for this purpose.”

The afternoon session on Tuesday, involving all members of the peace panel and members of the ICG, started at  2:45p.m. but 45 minutes later, a recess was called with the two panels holding separate caucuses.  The GPH panel held their caucus outside the Tai Ping restaurant from 3:32 p.m. to 3:52 p.m. while the MILF’s  caucus at the coffee room took much longer.

By 5 p.m., the panels were almost done with their seven-point agenda for the three-day talks and were already on the fifth, on the “update on detainees,” after renewing the year-long mandate of the International Monitoring Team. The present IMT mandate ends in February-March 2012.

The parties stepped out of the boardroom at 5:20 p.m. with only the closing session and the signing of a joint statement left for Wednesday morning.

It will be the first joint statement after April. No joint statement was issued in the August 22-23 talks and the November 3 executive meeting.

The proposals discussed during the “three plus one” executive session on Tuesday morning, were not divulged during the full-panel afternoon session attended also by members of the International Contact Group.

But sources told MindaNews that what was discussed Tuesday morning would be reported to their respective principals – President Aquino and the MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim – for consideration.

The panels are set to meet again in January although the exact date will be known  only during Wednesday’s closing session.

“The work or our panels should be focused. Ours is to bring about a negotiated political settlement within the soonest possible time,” Leonen said in his opening statement on Monday.

“On behalf of the government, let me now state this challenge: let us complete our task within the first quarter of next year,” he said.

MILF  peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said, “the people of Mindanao want peace now and not later.”

In Manila, Moro youth leaders and peace advocates “are now picketing in Congress in support of the ongoing GPH-MILF peace talks,” lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) said.

“We hope the peace panels will reach a breakthrough in the talks. We pray for God’s guidance that their efforts will finally reach a signing of a peace agreement. We pray for patience and more patience and loads of wisdom for the GPH and MILF peace panels so that their efforts will lead us to peace and light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Irene Santiago, chief executive officer of the Mindanao Commission on Women, said, “the women of Mindanao, victims of the war but also major actors for social change, are behind the two panels in their commitment to a just peace NOW rather than later.  The women resolve that they will support a peace agreement that will involve justice and equality as the basis for enduring peace.  We pray that the panels find the place in their hearts to open the road to peace much wider so that all of us  – women, men and children – can walk there as the proud people of Mindanao.”

Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society said, “we in the Waging Peace conference throw our all-out support to the GPH-MILF talks. We are confident that the parties will exert all efforts to enter into a mutually acceptable  solution to the Mindanao problem.”

The Bishops-Ulama Conference in a statement Tuesday said Mindanao civil society, “especially Christian and Muslim religious leaders earnestly hope for a negotiated political peace accord consistent with moral values and total human developments based on the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an.”

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue in a statement addressed to the two panels, said, “Stay the course. Imagine that our generation’s children – Moro and Filipino alike — who may not be privy to the nitty-gritty of your talks now but who are either victims of or clueless on the raging conflict will soon reap and enjoy the gift or your eventual agreement. May God, Allah be with you.” — MindaNews