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37th round of peace talks start

Angela Casauay

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Only discussions on the annex on normalization remain at the level of the technical working groups

DISCUSSIONS. The technical working group of the GPH peace panel after their discussion with their MILF counterparts. Photo from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

MANILA, Philippines – The latest round of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally started Tuesday, April 9, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after being postponed for two weeks.  

Only discussions on the annex on normalization remain at the level of the technical working groups. The annex contains the most contentious issues of the peace talks — decommissioning, the creation of the Bangsamoro police force, and the deployment of government troops to MILF areas. 

Both parties have signed one out of the 4 annexes that will comprise the final agreement for the creation of a new Bangsamoro political identity. 

Meanwhile, the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing are almost complete, government peace panel members reported after the 36th round of peace talks in February 28. 

Once the respective peace panels conclude discussions on the annexes, they are brought back to their principals — in this case, President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chief Murad Ebrahim. 

Both parties had wanted to sign a comprehensive peace pact by April. However, President Aquino requested that the talks be postponed to give him time to review the contents of the annexes.  

Aquino quelled concerns that the Sabah standoff caused the postponement of the talks. ““The Sabah issue should not affect the ongoing talks with the MILF,” he said.

The talks come a week after the Transition Commission (TransCom) — the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law — held their first meeting on April 3. 

Although the Commission needs the comprehensive peace pact to start drafting the law, TransCom chairman Mohagher Iqbal said they will work on logistical concerns, as well as the group’s internal rules and regulations, in the meantime. –

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