Binay to MILF: Resume peace talks with GRP

By MADEL R. SABATER and EDD K. USMAN
August 12, 2010, 5:42pm

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday appealed to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to resume peace talks with the Philippine government (GRP).

“I appeal to the MILF to give the peace talks a chance. Countless innocent civilians, both Muslims and Christians, have suffered from the conflict,” Binay said.

“Economic growth has been elusive, especially in Muslim Mindanao. It is time for us to come together and arrive at a shared agreement that would lead to lasting peace and development,” he added.

MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad had earlier said that the MILF is not “optimistic” about the resumption of the talks after the holy month of Ramadan and had warned that it is ready to resume the armed conflict.

Binay however said the month-long Ramadan is an opportunity to reflect on the issue of peace and brotherhood. “I am sure that we are all committed to the development of Mindanao.

The end of armed conflict is the key to bringing development and economic growth to the region,” he said. “Exploring peaceful means to end the decades-long conflict would benefit us all, especially the future generations of Filipinos.”

As Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman, Binay also vowed to improve housing sector in Muslim Mindanao.

“We will address the housing problem of Muslim Filipinos, especially in rebuilding the homes that were destroyed in the past conflicts,” Binay said.

It will be recalled that the Vice President has tapped actor Robin Padilla as a special assistant to the housing sector in Muslim Mindanao in a bid to reach out to Muslim communities in need of decent housing.

During the Arroyo administration, the GRP and the MILF had resumed its peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on December 8 and 9, 2009 after a postponement in 2008 due to decision released by the Supreme Court (SC) deeming the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA –AD) as unconstitutional.

On June 3 of this year, the GRP, then headed by peace panel chairman Rafael Seguis, and the MILF had signed a Declaration to work on previous gains as foundation for future negotiations under the new administration.

This developed as an informal off-the-negotiating-table peace talks have started between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with GRP chief negotiator Marvic Leonen responding to MILF Chairman Al-Hajji Murad Ebrahim who said negotiations should start where it stopped.

“We have to move forward and moving forward means moving from where we stopped,” said Ebrahim.

“Definitely, it is not the intention of the government’s panel to start from scratch. Neither do we want to start without a viable proposal,” Leonen, dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, retorted.

The bone of contention seems to be what would be the role of the ill-fated memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD), which was initialed but not signed by the two sides, when talks resume. It is because President Aquino has ordered the review of all past agreements.

Meanwhile, Hadji Akmad Bayam, former chief propagandist of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), said resuming the peace talks would be a better course than engaging in new hostilities, particularly with the onset of the Ramadan fasting month either August 11 or 12, depending on the sighting of the new crescent moon.

He warned of the “drivers of war” in Mindanao, who are out to sabotage efforts to end the Mindanao conflict.

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