No secret deal made with Muslim rebels


MANILA, April 25 – Any agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not be shrouded in secrecy, according to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle T. Abaya. Abaya made the assurance over the weekend after the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF concluded their talks in Kuala Lumpur last April 20-21.

During a press conference Abaya said the government is hopeful that a transitional agreement would be signed before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps downs at the end of her term on June 30 this year.

“We will not sign this in secrecy,” Abaya said, adding that the government spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) had just completed a series of reflective dialogues all over the country, consulting and asking stakeholders on their inputs in the ongoing peace process with the MILF.

The two panels issued a joint statement signed by Ambassador E. Seguis, GRP panel chairman, and Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF panel, in the presence of Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, third party facilitator from Malaysia at the end of the two-day talks.

During the recent talks, the two panels acknowledged that “they have steadily strengthened the peace process through effectively suspending hostilities, helping return over 500,000 IDPs (internally displaced persons)" out of which less than 100,000 remain in evacuation centers. They recognized that introducing additional international and local bodies to bolster the talks and improving security on the ground" are most critical to moving the peace forward and eventually reaching a final Comprehensive Compact.

The joint statement said that “the Parties formally exchanged amended draft proposals." They poured over comparative matrices of proposals, discussed them and identified areas of common ground. "Subject to endorsement by the Panels to their respective principals," this would be the basis of crafting an interim document for negotiations slated in early May 2010.

The recent Kuala Lumpur caused a discussion on how to collaborate in effecting the return of the remaining IDPs. The CCCH was tasked to ensure the safety and security of the returning evacuees by accompanying them to their respective areas of origin. This will be done in coordination with local government units and other concerned agencies like DSWD, civil society groups and non-government organizations (NGOs).

Discussion on the Terms of Reference for the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) was referred to the Head of Mission of the International Monitoring Team, in consultation with the 4 members of the CPC, as well as representatives from GRP and MILF. Upon their recommendation and approval by the Parties and the Facilitator, the CPC will then be made fully operational.

The Implementing Guidelines on the clearing of landmines and unexploded ordnance were discussed, noting that such will be undertaken jointly by the GRP, MILF, CCCH, the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD).

Recognizing the importance of preparing for peace, "the parties agreed to mobilize technical and administrative resources to support the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI)" to boost its role in providing the leadership and human resource capacity to emerging Bangsamoro leaders and professionals.

The Parties agreed to enhance operational support for the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)” in order for them to more effectively meet their security mandates.

At the conclusion of the exploratory talks, the two parties “expressed their gratitude to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najid bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his generous and steadfast support and assistance to the pursuit of these goals.”

Asia, ConflictBen Cal