Peace pact with MILF faces ‘huge obstacles’ – ICG

Rappler.com
The Framework Agreement "is still only a preliminary sketch, but it is Mindanao’s best chance yet," according to the International Crisis Group

BREAKTHROUGH FOR PEACE? MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (second from left) watches the signing of the peace roadmap along with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines – The Framework Agreement signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a breakthrough but still “far from a final peace,” according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

In its latest report The Philippines: Breakthrough in Mindanao released on Wednesday, December 5, the Brussels-based think tank said that the agreement “defers several tough questions” regarding the creation of a truly autonomous region for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, especially policing and taxation.

Once these conclude, the report stated, the hard part of implementation will begin, and that is when the process must not stall if the MILF leadership is to continue enjoying popular support and control over its commanders.

Next round of talks ‘crucial’

The ICG said that the next round of talks between both sides will be “crucial” towards implementation of the Framework Agreement signed on October 15.

“For years, it looked like the government and the MILF were never going to agree on the terms of a final peace”, Bryony Lau, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Senior Analyst, explained in a statement.

The Framework Agreement “is still only a preliminary sketch, but it is Mindanao’s best chance yet,” he added. According to the think tank, several “huge” obstacles could still derail the peace process:

Framework Agreement ‘remarkable’

On the positive side, the ICG stressed in the report that the Framework Agreement is “remarkable” for two reasons:

  1. The negotiators devised a different formula for determining which areas would be under a new Bangsamoro government, which means the process is risky for the MILF but “politically and constitutionally watertight” for the government, and it gives all Muslims a chance to join the new autonomous region
  2. The scheme finally agrees that the “dysfunctional” Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) must be replaces to raise hopes of better governance in one of the poorest areas of the country

“The Framework Agreement is a triumph for both sides,” said ICG Southeast Asia project director Jim Della-Giacoma.

Della-Giacoma called the pact a “breakthrough” because for once the government came to the negotiating table with “creative ideas”, and the MILF responded by “”flexible and pragmatic.”

Over a year ago, the ICG published another report assesing that the Philippine government was experimenting with a “creative but risky new strategy” to resolve the conflict in Mindanao.

The 2011 report had guarded faith in the Aquino administration’s novel approach to the peace process Rappler.com

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