GPH, MILF set to meet again on March 29 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:39

The Bangsamoro rebels’ internal conflict and a clarification of its proposed comprehensive draft that seeks to establish a substate in Mindanao are the two main issues which the Aquino government wants in the negotiating table when the two parties will resume their talks in Kaula Lumpur this month.

Government chief negotiator Marvic M.V.F. Leonen said the government would want to know any developments towards the resolution of the conflict within the ranks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). A top commander of the front, Commander Umbra Kato, broke away along with his 1,000-strong unit last month to form a new splinter group.

Leonen said the government looks at the supposed breakaway as a “serious concern” that could derail the peace talks.

The MILF admitted that one of their commanders has resigned from his post in Central Mindanao and established its own group.

The central committee of the MILF has said that they have initiated moves to address the internal conflict, saying that CommandeR Kato is still part of their organization.

“They admitted that Kato was still part of the MILF but was a problem for the MILF. They characterized this problem as internal and they shared with us their efforts to resolve this problem,” Leonen said.

Commander Kato is one of the three Moro rebel commanders who staged bloody attacks against civilians’ communities in some parts of Mindanao when the talks broke down in August, 2008. He is known to be against any peace negotiations with government.

At the same time, Leonen said they hope to receive substantial explanation on the comprehensive compact submitted by their counterpart when the talk resumed in Malaysia last month.

“We received their document but emphasized that we were not accepting it yet as the working draft for the negotiations. We did emphasize our need to get more formal clarifications on the document which they just introduced,” he said.

The MILF has earlier described their new draft as “a formula of peace through the exhaustion of all democratic remedies to solve a home-grown sovereignty-based conflict, which, following the same approach, other similar global sovereignty-based conflicts have also been successfully resolved, such as in South Sudan and Northern Ireland.”

The front said their new proposal seeks to “correct and solve the one-sidedness or imbalance of totality of relationship between Filipinos and Moros, the former continue to be rulers and sole decision-makers, while the latter as mere second class citizens without any role in national decision-making.”

Both sides are expected to resume their negotiations on March 29 in Kuala Lumpur.
“We look forward though to the next meeting as that will provide us with the opportunity to clarify formally some points arising from the document that was submitted for our consideration,” Leonen said.

According to him, the government is in the process of finalizing their own proposal.
“[We] are closely scrutinizing their proposals and doing the requisite consultations with our principals,” he said, adding that government panel has been conducting formal and informal consultations with different officials including the President, Cabinet members, congressmen, local government leaders, and other groups.

Meanwhile, the joint ceasefire committee has recorded a “zero” incident of misencounter between the government troopers and MILF fighter in the first months of this year.

Army Maj. Carlos Sol, head of the government Ceasefire Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) secretariat, said the number of armed skirmishes between government and Moro forces dropped off to 14 in 2010.

“As of December 31, 2010, recorded incidents considerably diminished from 115 in 2009 in some areas in Mindanao, particularly Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Norte,” he said, adding that “there have been no recorded encounters from January 2011 to date.”

Sol said that such decrease is a significant improvement since the armed clashes involving government troops and MILF lawless elements escalated to 218 armed incidents in 2008 following the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

He said that the government’s declaration of Suspension of Military Offensives (SOMO) on July 23, 2009, as well as the MILF’s pronouncement of Suspension of Military Action (SOMA) on July 25 of the same year, has been a huge factor in the reduction of fighting incidents.

The support of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) is vital in maintaining the truce observance in the ground, Sol said.

Recently, the Indonesian government announced that it will join the IMT, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said.

According to her, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made the announcement during a joint press conference he had with Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, following their bilateral meeting during a state visit in Jakarta in early March.

“At the bilateral meeting, Pres. Yudyohono told P-Noy that Indonesia will join IMT to reciprocate the Philippine peacekeeping assistance in Aceh,” Deles, who went with President Aquino in the visit, said.

Composed of representatives from Malaysian, Brunei, Libya, Japan, and recently, Norway and European Union, the IMT monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF.

The IMT’s tour of duty ended on Feb. 28, but the government of the Philippines and the MILF negotiating panels agreed to renew its mandate for another year during their 20th formal exploratory talks on Feb. 9 and 10 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. — Darwin Wally T. Wee/Press Release-Peace Advocates Zamboanga