MILF: No continuity in gov’t proposal

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12:29 am | Monday, September 5th, 2011
 1share21 14

DAVAO City—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is insisting that a political settlement with the government must be built on what has been achieved in the negotiating table the past 14 years.

MILF chief Murad Ebrahim, in a post on the group’s website, made the assertion in relation to the government’s proposal which essentially builds on institutional reforms of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and progress towards including other “doable” self-governance aspirations of the Moro people.

He described the government proposal as “detached from what the two parties had (earlier) agreed upon.”

“What is the use of the more than 14 years of negotiations between the government and MILF if we are to start again from zero?” Murad asked.

Murad said the MILF peace panel had recommended to its central committee that the government proposal be rejected but added that the rebel group has not yet made a collective decision on the matter.

Moving forward

“Even if we reject the proposal, the government can still make another proposal… We are confident that the government realizes that this is the best way to move forward (with) the peace process,” he said.

Murad said the recommendation of its peace panel is based on its assessment that the government proposal “had no connections with the previous agreements and consensus reached… during the past 14 years of the peace process.”

Murad explained that by seemingly starting all over again, the process of negotiations would be prolonged instead of hastened.

Continuity of the past consensus, he said, is premised on the idea that the negotiations “is between the MILF and the government and not between personalities or particular administration.”

“We are negotiating with the government of the Philippines. Whatever were agreed upon by the two parties are binding to the MILF and the government,” Murad pointed out.

“We cannot allow that when there is a new administration then we will start again from scratch,” he added.

Earlier, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal explained that based on the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001, the MILF and the government have to build a consensus on the three issues of security, rehabilitation of war-torn areas, and ancestral domain before crafting a comprehensive compact.

As such, Iqbal said, the process is “incremental.”

A ceasefire regime has been in place since 1997 while a development arm has been in operation for some five years to take care of postwar reconstruction.

In the case of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008, the parties have agreed in July 2009 to “reframe the consensus points” towards drafting the peace agreement.

This left the parties with no more issues to settle. Crafting a comprehensive compact is the only substantive agenda left in the negotiating table.

The rebel leader also dispelled persistent reports its peace negotiations with the government is breaking down because of the supposedly “heaven and earth” distance between the parties’ proposed political settlement.

“The negotiation is still on. There is no declaration by either party that the talks had already collapsed, and (so) it will continue,” Murad said.

During the August 22 exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur between the parties’ respective peace panels, the government presented its proposal for an enhanced ARMM as a starting point for a political settlement to end the so-called Moro question in Mindanao.

Murad also clarified that the rebel group “did not reject the government proposal.”

Substate

“…It was not discussed because after a careful look on it by our peace panel during the last meeting in Malaysia, they saw no points of discussion,” he explained.

The MILF has proposed the creation of a Moro substate within the context of the Philippine republic. It envisioned this as a special region with more powers than that enjoyed by the ARMM but would have the latter’s administrative territory as the core self-governance area.

Murad said succumbing to the offer of enhanced autonomy through ARMM is a step towards “integration to the unitary political set-up of the Government of the Philippines.”

“Integration is opposite the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination and self-governance. Integration coupled with massive development will not solve the problem,” he added.

Murad stressed that the MILF would not sign an agreement that would not solve the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-governance and right to self-determination because this is “what’s acceptable to our people.”

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