Malaysia seeks new role for peacekeepers
MANILA, Philippines - Malaysia expects changes in its role as well as that of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) after the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday, October 15.
The issue will be raised by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during his meeting with President Benigno Aquino III on Monday morning, according to Malaysian defense minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"Depending on the outcome of discussions between the two leaders, a new diplomatic IMT set-up is likely to be established. We are thinking there must be another level of monitoring -- one that does not depend on military presence but a diplomatic channel to ensure the details of the framework agreement are adhered to," Zahid told reporters before departing for the Philippines.
After having hosted talks between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels since 2001, Malaysia wants a new role that will go "beyond pushing for a lasting peace in Mindanao and help ensure the socio-economic development in the region is enhanced," the Malaysian defense minister explained.
Malaysia has led for the past 8 years the 60-strong International Monitoring team in Mindanao, which has 26 members from Malaysia and the rest from Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, Libya, Norway and the European Union. (Read: Why Malaysia PM's visit matters)
Prospects for economic growth
On his first visit to the Philippine since he assumed power in 2009, Najib arrived on Sunday, October 14, along with Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to witness the signing ceremony in Malacañang Palace on Monday.
Prior to the ceremony, the Malaysian chief executive is scheduled to meet with Aquino, whom he last saw at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vladivostok, Russia about a month ago.
Worked last night to prepare my speech for today's historic event with President Aquino n Hj Murad , head of MILF.— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) October 14, 2012
Najib leads a delegation which included 3 Cabinet secretaries, the First Lady Rosmah Mansor as well as representatives from Malaysian companies that are investing in the Philippines.
Rosmah is a 1982 graduate of the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, which will host a homecoming in her honor with a speech from the Malaysian First Lady.
Najib also expressed his hope that the prospects for peace in the Philippines will further harness the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine East Asean Growth Area) initiative for economic development.
The Malaysian prime minister is looking forward to setting up a customs office in the city of Kudat, the northern point of entry for province of Sabah on Borneo island.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos enter Sabah illegally to work in the palm oil plantations, and Malaysia has been trying for years to curb that wave of immigration that is fueled by the conflict in Mindanao.
"When the southern Philipines is peaceful, they can carry out development and fewer people will enter Sabah illegally and the BIMP-EAGA will be more progressive and investments can be increased," Najib said. - Rappler.com
For related stories, read:
- Govt, MILF reach deal
- 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro political region
- FAQs: Bangsamoro peace deal
- Understanding the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement
- The Aquinos and the MILF
- #TalkThursday with Marvic Leonen: Give peace a chance