PNoy visits Maguindanao MILF stronghold PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 February 2013 14:29

President Benigno Aquino Aquino III reassured the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Monday of his commitment to finish the peace talks with the rebel group during his term, which is to end in 2016.

The government-MILF talks, which started January 7, 1997 at the Da’awah Center in Simuay area in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, were first initiated by then President Fidel Ramos, after he and Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front signed on September 2, 1996 the GPH-MNLF final peace accord.

President Aquino, who launched Monday a special program of the national government for MILF strongholds dubbed Sajahatra Bangsamoro at the compound of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute also in Simuay District, called on local communities to help his administration and rebel group push the peace talks forward.

The President, who addressed members of the MILF’s central committee and hundreds of spectators, reminisced his administration’s successful crafting with the rebel group last October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB).

The FAB, whose four annexes – territory; wealth and power sharing; normalization; modalities and transitional arrangements — aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with an MILF-led, self-governing  Bangsamoro political entity.

Mr. Aquino said he looks forward to the completion of his administration’s peace overture with the MILF within “three years and four months,” or during the remaining years of his presidential tenure.

The acting governor the ARMM, Mujiv Hataman, and the chief executive of Maguindanao, re-electionist Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, were among the dignitaries that attended the launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

The mayor of Sultan Kudarat, Tucao Mastura, and his constituent-local leaders also graced the event.

Also present in the launching rite were members of President Aquino’s cabinet, among them Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, whose office is in the forefront of dealing with the MILF.

Sajahatra is a Bahasa term for peace, prosperity and development. It is President Aquino’s concrete socio-economic initiative aimed to hasten efforts to address poverty and underdevelopment in Moro communities through effective delivery of health, social welfare and education services to recipient MILF bailiwicks.

Murad, in a speech, said they MILF welcome President Aquino’s Sajahatra program for Moro communities in areas covered by the Mindanao process.

“We welcome this initial dividend of peace. We welcome this partnership of the GPH and MILF,” Murad said.

Murad even cited a verse in the Qur’an obliging Muslims to reciprocate with any attempt by an adversary to build peace to achieve unity and co-existence.

President Aquino’s launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro at the MILF stronghold in Simuay area was also capped with the turnover of special projects for MILF territories and assistance packages for local schools, and scholarship grants for Moro beneficiaries. 

The President also led the distribution of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation membership cards to hundreds of rebels, among them Murad, chairman of the MILF’s central committee.

The launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro was also highlighted with a fluvial caravan of Moro watercrafts, draped with colorful flags, from Butilen River in Taviran District in Datu Odin Sinsuat town down to the Tamontaka River which straddles through the border of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.

The fluvial parade was organized by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the office of the governor of Maguindanao, in support of the FAB.

A “football for peace” competition, involving Moro and military athletes, was also held at the oval of the 6th Infantry Division inside Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat.