GPH, MILF to resolve Mindanao conflict via peaceful talks, slam breakaway group PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 August 2012 13:51

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will pursue the path of peace to resolve the long-drawn Mindanao problem at the resumption of the informal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday — undaunted by a series of coordinated attacks by a breakaway rebel group last Sunday apparently aimed at disrupting the peace talks.

“The negotiations are proceeding with undeniable momentum,” said Marvic Leonen, chair of the GPH panel, in his opening statement at the 30th formal exploratory talks with the MILF.

Leonen formally informed the MILF about the simultaneous attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of the Bangsa Islamic Freed Movement (BIFF-BIFM) on several detachments of the Philippine Army in Maguindanao and Cotabato last Sunday but the attackers were repulsed.

Fighting erupted between the Army soldiers and BIFF-BIFM forces under Ameril Umbra Kato in Barangay Bagan, Talayan, Barangay Kauran, Ampatuan, all in Maguindanao, and in Barangay Tugal, Midsayap in North Cotabato.

“These attacks were suspiciously timed to coincide with the opening of the 30th formal exploratory talks where the passion is high that there may be an agreement this year,” Leonen said.

On the other hand, MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described the violent acts of Kato’s group as an example of “dirty spoiling” and stressed that the “MILF has demonstrated itself as a reliable partner in peacemaking.”

“The path to peace is the most fruitful way, not through war,” Iqbal said, adding that “the MILF is confronting the problem of radicalism, especially among the youth, head on.”

Iqbal also urged his counterpart to “persevere,” saying that he “expects every sort of obstacles and complications… (as the) bargaining becomes more intense in the final stage” of the negotiations.

Both parties slammed the recent attacks of the BIFF/BIFM which is considered a lawless group and therefore is not covered by the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

The GPH and MILF have a ceasefire agreement in place.

The military said it has not recorded any fighting between government forces and MILF since January this year, and indication that the ceasefire is holding.

Leonen said government forces are now conducting “punitive actions against this renegade group while being consistent with our ceasefire mechanisms and our protection of the civilians.”

“We understand that coordination is happening closely amongst our Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities,” he said.

“ We also understand that the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have ordered their troops to stand down and not to be involved in the ongoing operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Leonen said.

Leonen continued: “We are appreciative of statements that have been made by Mr. Von Al Haq, the spokesperson of the BIAF, and Mr. Ghadzali Jaafar, Vice Chair of the MILF clearly expressing their disapproval and non-involvement of the MILF in these particular activities.”

“Clearly, this group of Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato is one of the few that are willing to go at lengths to deny our communities and our peoples the benefit of a just and lasting peaceful settlement to our armed conflicts. Clearly, they have lost the moral high ground: they have put communities and civilians in harms way for amorphous and illegitimate objectives,” Leonen stressed.

Leonen underscored that while both parties are in the last stretch of the negotiations, “the next stages will still be as complex.”

“As we mentioned during the last round of talks, our principals will be confronted with issues that will require difficult decisions,” Leonen said, adding that he is “sure that our principals will be willing to make them and communicate them through us so that we can work on these concerns.”

He bared that “the sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will also be able to fully unmask those groups who do not do justice to the many sacrifices of the many to find a just solution to the Bangsamoro question. The sooner we craft our agreements, the sooner we will be able to do our joint advocacies so that our partnership can effectively deliver on our mutual promises.”

The members of the technical working group (TWG) of the GPH for power sharing are Mayor Ramon Piang of the Teduray, Atty. Joe Lorena and Undersecretary Chito Gascon, who just arrived a few hours ago and braved the floods just to get here. Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is the adviser of the group.

The GPH wealth sharing group is composed of Secretary Senen Bacani, Assistant Secretary Anselmo Abungan of the Department of Enviuronment and Natural Resources (DENR), Director Ma. Lourdes Lim of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and Ms. Yasmin Busran Lao.

On the MILF side, Dr. Habib Macaayong leads the working group on power-sharing with Ustadz Anwar Sirad and Prof. Ali Ayuib as members. Their working group on wealth-sharing is led by Dr. Benjamin Domato with Dr. Mahid Macalingkang and Archie Buayah as members.