MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the creation of a "coordinating committee" with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to boost peace efforts in Mindanao and the fight against the Abu Sayyaf.
Malacañang announced this on Tuesday, August 27, or 4 days after Duterte proposed the committee during his meeting with MNLF chairman Nur Misuari in Davao City.
"The President relayed to Mr Misuari his desire to immediately form a Coordinating Committee between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MNLF," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday.
Duterte instructed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity to convene the committee by the second week of September in Davao City "for agenda setting and for the start of discussions," added the spokesman.
It is not clear if the committee will be used to thresh out a new agreement with the MNLF on a new territory for them, as Duterte has floated in several occasions.
But Panelo said the committee would be "a venue to seek...the cooperation of the MNLF to achieve immediate peace in Sulu," including "helping in combatting the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and convincing MNLF relatives to return to the fold of the law."
Mindanao continues to be a hotspot for violence due to the presence of terror and bandit groups like the ASG and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Some of the members of these groups used to be part of the MNLF.
During their meeting last Friday, August 23, Misuari asked for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to be included in the discussions, as was the case during peace talks between the MNLF and the government during the Ramos administration.
Misuari wants the committee to determine how the government can comply with the 1996 Peace Agreement inked with the MNLF during the Ramos administration, the culmination of 4 years of negotiations. It was designed for the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement signed during the Marcos years.
A faction of the MNLF, the Jikiri faction, is part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the interim government of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). This new government is led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a breakaway group of the MNLF.
The creation of the BARMM is considered a major achievement of the Duterte administration. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.