Sulu, Tawi-Tawi govs lukewarm on MILF’s proposed sub-state PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 13:47

Two Mindanao governors have aired their reservations on the Bangsamoro sub-state proposal made by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to resolve the decades-old armed conflict in southern Philippines.

Governors Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi and Abdusakur Tan of Sulu expressed their views at the recently-concluded regional forum dubbed “Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao” held at the University Sains Malaysia in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

Both provincial executives expressed their reservations on the MILF’s intent to lead the Bangsamoro sub-state the MILF has proposed during peace negotiations with the government.

For Sahali, he expressed doubts on the MILF leadership’s “character” and “system.”

“The real question is about the character of this association and the system in which they are aimed,” he said in a speech, adding that “in some provinces, the MILF has no commanding presence.”

“They are not even organized for us to consider them. I know these things because I have been a municipal mayor in Tawi-Tawi for three or four years,” Sahali said.

Since the MILF dropped their bid for independence, they have been aiming for a sub-state or what they refer to as “Bangsamoro homeland” which will still be under the Government of the Philippines but will have the power to exercise all government functions, except those of foreign affairs, national defense, currency and postal services.

Sahali said that if this happens, “the kind of autonomy in this country is going to be a federal set-up.”

“How can we be sure that those (MILF) leaders are to lead a federal leadership?” he asked.

Sahali also said that the improvement of Mindanao does not depend on the system of government, stressing “it is rather about character. It is about attitude. It is in the person that improves other people’s lives. It is not a one-way process.”

In the same forum, Governor Tan expressed similar sentiments.

“Now, there are talks about federalism, grant of another autonomous region, we talk about vehicles and being at the driver’s seat. We know for a fact that one of the requirements of our brothers from the MILF is that we come up with a vehicle and put them behind the stirring wheel and at the driver’s seat,” Tan said.

He expressed qualms over the idea of the Moro group taking the lead in the proposed sub-state.

Despite his reservations, Sahali remains hopeful that the government and the MILF will soon forge a peace agreement because “I believe that the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) will succeed.”

“I believe that the MILF will settle with something that is possible for the government to give. I believe that there will be substantial reforms in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” Sahali said.

He is also optimistic that “peace and progress are coming to Mindanao. We pray for the resumption of peace talks between the MILF and the GPH (Government of the Philippines). It is the understanding that gives us the ability to have peace. When we understand the other’s viewpoint, then we can sit down and work out our differences.”

The government and the MILF peace panels are set to meet again for their 25th formal exploratory talks this month in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia is the third party facilitator of the GPH and MILF talks.

It may be recalled that during the 24th formal exploratory talks, government panel Chairman Marvic Leonen said that the government was earnest in moving towards the crafting of a peace agreement.

In the GPH-MILF joint statement, both parties confirmed “constructive discussions on substantive issues” such as “the concept of governance and the listing of reserved powers of the National Government.”

The two panels also clarified their positions, tentatively identified areas of common ground and agreed to consult with their principals on outstanding issues.

The government and the MILF also considered the drafting of road maps towards the resolution of the Bangsamoro question.