Historic firearms deal paves way for peace

Rappler.com
The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front end the 43rd round of talks in Malaysia with a firearms deal the final annex in the peace talks.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – After 16 years, a peace agreement to end decades of fighting in Mindanao is a signature away.

On Saturday, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front end the 43rd round of talks in Malaysia with a firearms deal the final annex in the peace talks, and one of the most sensitive issues that needed to be addressed before a peace agreement can be signed.

Both sides now enter the crucial phase of moving from the negotiating table to ground implementation.

Angela Casauay reports.

16 years.

That’s how long it took the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to close the peace talks that aim to end 4 decades of Muslim insurgency in Mindanao. On the 43rd round of formal negotiations, both sides sign a historic firearms deal that paves the way for the signing of a final peace agreement.

MOHAGHER IQBAL, MILF CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: All the agreements are all substantive and important and very very hard but the issue of normalization is the most sensitive, emotional and as far as I know it entails a lot of sacrifices on the part of the MILF because to build real peace in Mindanao, we have to decommission our forces.

The event is marked by a joyous celebration by former foes.

MOHAGHER IQBAL, MILF CHIEF NEGOTIATORL: The most difficult part of negotiations was getting my counterpart to agree with me.

MIRIAM CORONEL FERRER, GOVERNMENT PEACE PANEL CHAIR: Thankfully we agreed with each other.

Under the annex on normalization, the MILF will decommission its forces and put them “beyond use.”

Where will rebel firearms go? How many troops and arms will be decommissioned? The deal does not specify for now. A separate Independent Decommissioning Body will be convened to conduct an inventory of MILF arms and troops as well as recommend the most appropriate way of dealing with rebel firearms. The agreement also grants amnesty to MILF troops.

But the path to lasting peace in Mindanao does not end here.

MIRIAM CORONEL FERRER, GOVERNMENT PEACE PANEL CHAIR: It marks the end of a process, which is the formal negotiations – the effective end of course with some more finishing touches necessary but it also marks the challenge of a bigger challenge ahead, which is the challenge of implementation.

As peace in Mindanao spreads, the government will also fulfill its commitment to pullout troops and disband private armed groups.

Both sides acknowledge, peace in Mindanao will not be achieved overnight. The next challenge is to pass the Basic Law that would provide the legal framework for the new political entity and to hold a plebiscite, where provinces in Mindanao would choose whether to be included in the Bangsamoro or not.

We now have to wait and see whether they will meet their target to install the new Bangsamoro government by 2016, before President Aquino steps down from office.

Angela Casauay, Rappler, Kuala Lumpur. – Rappler.com