World lauds PH gov’t, MILF peace talks

Angela Casauay
The international community hails the historic signing of a firearms deal that marks a successful end to the peace talks between the Philippine government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front

HISTORIC. The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday, January 26, completed the normalization annex – paving the way for the signing of the final peace pact. Photo by Rappler

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Updated) – “Let’s bask in the moment.” 

The international community hailed the historic signing of a firearms deal that marked a successful end to the peace talks between government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

It was a welcome development in the wake of calamities that struck the country in 2013, said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. 

“The successful conclusion of negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a comprehensive peace agreement is a significant step towards lasting peace and development for Mindanao. Ending the long-running conflict will not just benefit the region, including Muslims, Christians and Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, but is vital for the security and economic development of the Philippines as a whole.  After the devastation wrought by Typhoon Yolanda, this positive news is all the more welcome,” Hague said. 

The United Kingdom is a member of the International Contact Group (ICG) supporting the peace talks. The body also includes Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and 3 international non-governmental organizations – Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah, and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre). 

At the signing of the landmark firearms deal, members of the government and the MILF peace panels were not the only ones left teary-eyed. 

ICG members, who were always present in the talks as observers, were also seen sharing an emotional moment after the annex on normalization was signed. 

JOYOUS MOMENT. Members of the International Contact Group share a tender moment after the signing of the annex on normalization between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Photo by Rappler

Switzerland, the homebase of HD Centre – an ICG member – welcomed the MILF’s pledge to uphold the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning antipersonnel mines. The normalization annex includes a provision on this.

“The conclusion of the negotiations marks a crucial step for the establishment of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao. Switzerland is confident that the full adherence of the parties to the provisions of the four annexes of the agreement and the support of all groupings in the region towards the successful implementation of this peace settlement will significantly enhance stability and the human security of the people in the southern Philippines,” the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. 

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird hailed the partnership between the government and the MILF. 

“With a foundation for peace now established, we encourage both parties to continue working in the spirit of cooperation during the implementation phase of the agreement in the months ahead,” Baird said in a statement. 

The assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Randall Beck, chairs the Independent Commission on Policing – the body tasked to recommend what the structure of the Bangsamoro police force should be like. 

Hope for lasting peace

Japan, another key supporter of the Mindanao peace process, reafirrmed its commitment to continue backing the journey towards lasting peace.

“As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced during his visit to the Philippines in July last year, Japan will strengthen its support to the Mindanao peace process through the assistance for community development, capacity-building in transition period, sustainable economic development in Mindanao, and other methods,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said in a statement. 

The European Union, a member of the International Monitoring Team overseeing the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF, also hailed the development. 

“Signing of the Annex on Normalization marks the end of a long and difficult process of peace negotiations. It is a truly historic moment, demonstrating the Parties’ commitment to achieving long lasting peace on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao through a unique and holistic concept of normalisation that encompasses the gradual decommissioning of arms, overall demilitarization, and its economic and social development,” said Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission.

The United States was upbeat that the final peace deal – which is expected to be signed in February or March – will finally bring lasting peace in Mindanao. 

“This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

For those who have been watching the peace talks closely, the completion of the final annex that paves the way for the signing of a comprehensive agreement between the government and the MILF was a sigh of relief. 

In a statement, the Philippines-based Initiatives for International Dialogue said: “[Let] us leave all thought of future work aside and bask in the moment… Let us applaud the work of these men and women who, guided by the Almighty, persevered in their tasks, no matter how bleak and thankless at times, to now present us with these needed building blocks to peace.

“Let us all draw inspiration from their example and do our part in hastening the advent of peace in Mindanao,” the group added.

'PROUD.' Malaysian Facilitator Datu Tengku Ghafar during the signing of the annex on normalization on Saturday, January 25. Photo by Rappler

In the joint press conference held after the signing of the firearms deal, Malaysian Facilitator Tengku Ghafar expressed his delight in being part of the government-MILF peace process. 

I am very proud to be part of this process. I’ve witnessed in 1986 the People Power [revolution] and now this,” he said.

The Framework Agreement, as well as the 4 annexes on transitional mechanismswealth-sharingpower-sharing and normalization, sets the stage for the creation of a new Bangsamoro government, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

Both sides hope the conclusion of the 16-year negotiations will finally end the 4-decade Muslim insurgency in the South. With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com