Government to push pact with MILF within the year

MANILA, Philippines – State chief negotiator Marvic Leonen reiterated on Sunday, April 8, his appeal to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) not to give up on hopes to forge a peace agreement within the year, calling on the rebel group to continue to “struggle for a result” amidst the difficulties of a political negotiation.

“I believe that the best results are always the hardest to achieve,” Leonen said in a statement posted on the Facebook account of the Office of the Presidential Advicer on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Sunday afternoon.

During a recent round-table discussion with a cause-oriented group, the MILF led by panel chair Mohagher Iqbal expressed their frustration over the failure to lead to a compromise agreement with the government on major issues particularly on the power and wealth sharing, as well as the type of “interim” government that will be put into place once the agreement is signed.

Accordingly, the MILF has been insisting on a federalism-type of government under its proposal to create a sub-state for the Bangsamoro people, that will include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other areas in Mindanao that may favor its inclusion through a plebiscite.

The government panel, on the other hand, has been pushing for a structure of a unitary system, prompting the rebel group to raise questions on the sincerity of the Aquino administration to finally resolve the 14 years of peace negotiation.

The MILF panel has also expressed reservations over the government's proposal to form a co-equal body to handle socio-economic projects under areas of the Bangsamoro People and the proposed sub-state, as a way to address the issue on wealth-sharing.

Citing “no breakthrough” in the talks with the present administration, the MILF said they are likely end negotiation by April.

With the apparent grim future that the talks are heading, Leonen called on his counterparts in the MILF to take a more favorable view.

“We always have a choice to succumb to the difficulties, especially in political negotiations, and become pessimistic,” Leonen said. “Or, we can study carefully why these difficulties are there, seek and consult on ways forward and struggle for a result. Our panel chooses the second option.”

In an earlier statement issued last April 2, Leonen tried to pacify the impatience of the MILF panel assuring that the government has “laid a very pragmatic proposal that will ensure real and genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro on the table.”

Leonen has refrained from extensively discussing in public the details of the on-going negotiations, except for saying that “there are issues that may be hard to resolve.”

“Instead of trying to fuel people's apprehensions, we urge the MILF to work with government and meet our timetable for a peace agreement this year,” Leonen said.

The peace talks are expected to resume in Kuala Lumpur next month, with the focus of discussion centering on the Aquino government's counterproposal to the MILF draft compact. - Rappler.com