Mindanao’s IP sectors back on-going GPH-MILF talks PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 February 2014 17:51

Mindanao’s indigenous non-Moro communities are looking forward to a positive conclusion of the now 17-year peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, tribal leaders said Wednesday.

Bae Magdalena Suhat Herbilla, presiding chairperson of the Council of Elders of the Federation of Matigsalog-Manobo Tribal Council (FEMMATRIC), and Habbas Camendan, deputy chair of the Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM), had both said in an emailed statement that their respective groups have also been very supportive of the government’s peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Herbilla and Camendan are both duly acknowledged traditional leaders of the indigenous people (IP) in Central Mindanao.

“The Lumads do not want to experience war again and our fervent wish now is for peace to reign, which we firmly believe can be ushered in by the upcoming GPH-MILF peace agreement. Then we shall continue to thrive in peace in our tribal homelands,” Herbilla.

The FEMMATRIC has about 35,000 members scattered in IP ancestral lands in the adjoining North Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces.

Herbilla said they are confident any final peace deal between the government and the MILF will bolster the socio-economic, political and ancestral rights of highland non-Moro communities, which are, for now, protected by the Republic Act 837, also known as the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.

Camendan has allayed fears of possible dislocation by lumad communities when the MILF assumes control of the Bangsamoro political entity the  rebel group and the government aims to establish to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao before the term of incumbent ARMM officials end on June 30, 2016.

“We are also certain that there is no truth to stories spreading that the lumad communities will bear arms and resort to rebellion if the government and the MILF will forge a final peace agreement that could marginalize our political, cultural and traditional statures,” Camendan said.

Camendan said there are tribal leaders that have either joined, or have become supporters of the MILF even before the formal GPH-MILF talks started on January 7, 1997.

Camendan said he and his followers are convinced that the final peace deal between the GPH and the MILF, expected to be signed in two months, is inclusive in nature and will not discriminate the Christians and Lumads in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.