Leonen on peace talks with MILF: ‘Let us persevere’ PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 October 2012 16:43

Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen expressed the Philippine government’s optimism to finally “usher in an era of peace” in Mindanao, adding that “to state that what we hope to be able to do (in the peace talks) in the next few days is historical is definitely an understatement.”

Speaking at the opening of the 32nd Formal Exploratory Talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Leonen said he was confident that a peace settlement on the decades-old Mindanao problem could be at hand soon. 

“Let us persevere, respect our differences but engage our best creativity in finding commonalities despite the differences.  Now is the time to fulfil l  our promises to our people,” Leonen said. “After all, there is no other way to resolve the difficulties and the vulnerabilities that lack of peace has brought to our people than to commence the implementation of a just and pragmatic solution that meets both our expectations.”

“We are on the brink of layering the written predicates that can frame the process of building trust as we usher in an era of peace, of hope and of recovery,” he added. “Let us look forward to test our ability to implement, encounter difficulties we could not have foreseen, adjust, build trust, build confidence and work further together.”

For his part, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal echoed the government’s “guarded optimism,” in his own opening statement and acknowledged that “the negotiations is now on the home stretch and the smell of success is reinforced every day.”

“Remember that negotiations, contrary to what many believe, is a risky business. If we cannot conclude it soon successfully, now that we are at the brink of the exercise, we will be in trouble,” Iqbal said. “For all we know, the greatest source of risk comes from spoilers, leaders, and parties who believe that these emerging from negotiations threatens their power and interests, and use violence to undermine attempts to achieve it.” 

Iqbal also expressed concern that the uncertainty over the success of the peace talks can be further complicated by the holding of the Philippine midterm elections in May.  “As expected, stretching of party affiliations is the rule and this so-called complex and principled alliances that both haggles political enemies in these barriers are now best friends and allies,” he noted.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Abd Ghafar Tengku Mohammed congratulated both panels for “doing a great job in the past two sessions. “

“As far as Malaysia is concerned we are always committed. The (Malaysian) Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak is very happy with the progress of the peace talks,” Ghafar said.

Among those who witnessed the opening session of the talks as observers were members of the International Contact Group and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Office-in-Charge Mujiv Hataman.

During the last round of talks in Septemner, Leonen said during the closing ceremonies that he was “humbled and admit a certain level of guarded excitement as we make histtory in measured — and certainly painstaking steps. These are indeed exciting times. Let us make history together.”

Leonen explained that the government still remains guarded in its optimism “not because there is not enough goodwill ro find solutions to the issues that remain on this negotiating table; but rather, because we need to prepare ourselves and our people too for the enormous task that lies ahead.”

The current negotiation between the two parties is guided by the Decision Points on Principles signed on April this year which listed down the common points from the panels’ respective initial positions — the MILF, from their February 2011 Revised Comprehensive Compact and the GPH, from its August 2011 “three-for-one” proposal. Included in the Decision Points on Principles are initial points of agreement such power and resources sharing and creation of a new political entity (NPE) that will replace the current ARMM, among others.