Peace pact should bring about ‘real-life changes’ in people’s lives – Ferrer PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 25 January 2014 13:07

KUALA LUMPUR – Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Wednesday said the peace agreement that will be forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should translate into positive changes in the lives of the people in the Bangsamoro and the rest of the country.

“The many pages of the texts that we have initialed and will be initialing soon will have to come alive in the form of real-life changes,” she stated in her welcome remarks during the opening ceremony of the GPH-MILF 43rd Exploratory Talks.

“Very soon the main challenge would be to make this difference manifest, in the lives of our people, especially of those in Mindanao; in our institutions, especially those of government at different levels; in our mindsets and norms, especially that of our leaders in politics and society,” said Coronel-Ferrer.

“For this reason, we cannot afford to lose more time at the expense of the bigger task of implementation, and of the considerable progress we have already gained. The time to conclude the formal exploratory talks is now. Let us enable ourselves to move forward 100 percent to the next stage of implementation,” she urged.

Underscoring the crucial role of all Mindanao stakeholders in the peace process, Coronel-Ferrer also called for efforts to strengthen collaboration among the Bangsamoro people and with the non-Moro Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in pushing for lasting peace in the south.

“We must intensify our convergence efforts among the Bangsamoro and with other non-Moro indigenous peoples,” she stated. “In particular, we ask you, our negotiating partners, to show the goodwill and benevolence in extending the hand of friendship with your other fellow Moros and fellow indigenous peoples, especially those, who like you, historically descended from ancestors who have called Mindanao their home,” she added.

In this round of negotiations, the GPH and the MILF peace panels aim to complete the Annex on Normalization and the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters – the last documents to be signed in order to complete the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The Annex on Normalization will detail the process by which MILF combatants and their communities can return to peaceful conditions where they can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihood and political participation.

The Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, on the other hand, will outline the delineation of territorial waters that will be governed by the Bangsamoro as well as arrangements outside the region’s waters based on the principles of (a) protection of traditional fishing grounds, (b) benefiting from the resources, and (c) interconnectivity of the islands and the mainland parts for a cohesive political entity.

Meeting expectations

Coronel-Ferrer stressed that both sides are “burdened with great expectations” from the public. These include ending violent conflicts in Mindanao involving various armed groups, and bringing about meaningful autonomy through the new set of institutions in the Bangsamoro region.

“In all, the public expectation is that these, our efforts, would truly make a difference. A difference for the better. A difference that is sustainable. A difference that will unite rather than divide. A difference that will bring about a sense of wellbeing and not stoke the fears and insecurities of the populace,” she said.

“To meet these expectations, we’d need to put the right people and appropriate mechanisms in place, the benchmarks on which to measure our progress, and the protocols that will guide our actions, and instill discipline among our ranks. We must be able to sustain the integrity of our peace process,” Coronel-Ferrer stated, also underscoring the need to be realistic to know that there will be challenges, such as delays, breakaways, spoilers, among others.

Guarded optimism

On the same note, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal expressed guarded optimism that despite the achievements of both parties, “the final destination of this journey of peace is not within immediate reach yet.”

“We may be able to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement soon as we wish, but that is not the end of the odyssey,” he said, adding that the negotiation will only be formally terminated if both parties satisfactorily complied with the deal and an Exit Agreement is signed by them.

However, he quickly added: “It is not farfetched that during this five-day session, we will be able to settle all the remaining outstanding issues on the Bangsamoro Waters and Annex on Normalization…”

“Thanks to the openness and spirit of accommodation of the parties, the superb handling of the Facilitator, and the absence of rigidity as in formal negotiations,” he said.

“I assure you, insha Allah, that as long as the two groups remain reasonable and commit to balance between history and reality and cognizant of their roots as descendants of the two brothers, everything will be settled for the satisfaction of the parties.”