PH, MILF talks reach ‘new level of momentum’

Rappler.com
For the first time since the peace talks resumed under the Aquino administration, the GPH and MILF panels agree to release in public the 'substantive issues' being discussed in the negotiations

MAKING IT PUBLIC. For the first time since the peace talks resumed under the Aquino administration, the GPH and MILF panels agree to release in public the 'substantive issues' being discussed in the negotiations. (Photo from Opapp)

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government said it has reached “a new level of momentum” in its negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with both parties agreeing on specific points that will serve as the framework for a peace agreement.

“Today, we dispel…cynicism,” government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said in his closing statement during the conclusion of the 27th Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, April 24.

Debunking critics, Leonen the talks are  moving forward “with a healthy amount of optimism tempered by prudence.”

“We have collated our points of mutual understanding, which have, indeed, significantly inspired both the substance and direction of our discussions,” Leonen said. “Therefore, this document, too, is an insight to the breadth and scope of issues encompassed by our discussions.”

Leonen was referring to the “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012” which both parties signed during the latest round of talks, pointing out that the listing of common points came from the panels’ respective initial positions – the MILF, from its February 2011 Revised Comprehensive Compact, and the GPH, from its August 2011 “three-for-one” proposal.

In a joint statement, both Leonen and MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described the latest talks as having “ended on a high note.” The parties said they will meet again next month.

Leonen explained that the listing is neither an “exclusive statement of all common points” nor a “detailed and precise statement of agreements,” but a “memorandum for the Parties of the general directions of the substantive negotiations, described in broad strokes.”

Substantive issues

Close to two years since the peace talks resumed, it is the first time that both panels have agreed to release to the public the list of “substantive issues” being negotiated, “as part of [their] sincere commitment to maintain transparency.” By doing so, both sides said they hope to encourage the public to be part of the discussions, “to be guided by lessons from the past and the needs of our people on the ground.”

Among the initial points of agreement listed in the document include highly-debated issues such as power and resources sharing, and the creation of an autonomous political entity that can replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Leonen said the listing is neither an “exclusive statement of all common points” nor a “detailed and precise statement of agreements,” but a “memorandum for the Parties of the general directions of the substantive negotiations, described in broad strokes.”

“The autonomous political entity envisioned is a secular political unit, existing within the Republic of the Philippines, located within its territory and subject to its sovereignty as a State,” Leonen stressed.

Leonen added the political entity which “shall have a ministerial form of government” based on the listing “shall also ensure guarantees of human rights and liberties for its inhabitants, such as religious freedom, the right of women to meaningful political participation, and freedom from ethnic, religious or sectarian harassment.”

Leonen pointed out that the “document is not yet the final peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.” But he expressed the hope that making it public would lead to more “dialogues and consultations with the affected sectors.”

“We look forward to the coming weeks of more thorough (perhaps, more difficult) conversations with the MILF and various affected sectors, with the understanding that only through peaceful and candid dialogues, open and public consultations and continuous reflections can a sincere, effective and acceptable solution be arrived at,” Leonen said. – Rappler.com