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Breakthrough seen in PH-MILF peace talks

By: Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao

Breakthrough seen in PH-MILF peace talks

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao—Another breakthrough in ongoing peace negotiations between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is in the offing, the Malaysian facilitator of the talks revealed.

This developed as the MILF spearheaded broad consultations with Moro leaders in preparation for an upcoming peace settlement with the government.

Speaking during the opening rites of the MILF-facilitated Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly on Saturday, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed, also a member  of the National Security Council of Malaysia,  likened the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF to reading a book.

“Before, they were not only reading different chapters, they were reading different books,” Tengku said. “Today, they are reading the same chapter. By the end of July, they would be reading the same paragraph,” he added.

The upcoming breakthrough comes barely three months after the highly lauded 10 Decision Points that the peace panels signed last April. The decision points laid the basic principles for a future negotiated settlement to end over four decades of Moro rebellion in Mindanao.

The panels, which were not able to meet last month, are set to meet on July 16 to 18 in Kuala Lumpur.

Asked what Tengku’s hints meant, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Inquirer it could be the Malaysian diplomat’s “best impression from his shuttling between the parties.”

“Well, that is his view. (But) he is in a position to assess it that way,” Iqbal said. “As the facilitator, he has some inkling of how the two sides think,” Iqbal explained.

He added that “to a certain extent,” the upcoming breakthrough relates with the mode of transition from the current political setup in the Moro region to one envisioned by the negotiations.

The 10 Decision Points outlined the creation of a new autonomous political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Iqbal said the envisioned transitional process is “ticklish because this has bearing on the goal of real empowerment.”

The other substantive issues like wealth-sharing and power-sharing may not be as ticklish “because there are models throughout the world that can be studied in order to help our discussions.”

“There is a momentum of peace,” Iqbal said.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen, who also graced the assembly, said an agreement “should be signed within this year” so that the parties would have the “opportunity to adjust” their agreed peace formula based on lessons in its implementation.

But Leonen stressed that any pact should be simple and clear “so that those cynical and skeptical cannot take advantage again of its ambiguity.”

“The time for peace has come,” declared Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, who spoke after Tengku.

“The government is ready to reach an agreement with the MILF” on the issues of wealth-sharing, power-sharing, extent of territory  and normalization, Deles pointed out. Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao


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