Govt gets 1-day extension in talks with MILF

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The Philippine government needs one more day to work out the contentious wealth-sharing arrangement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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The negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were scheduled to end on Friday.

But in a text message, Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said “the government panel requested for another day and [the]MILF agreed.”

The government panel’s chairman, Miriam Ferrer, said that the two panels agreed to a one-day extension to find “compromises” on the wealth sharing arrangement.

”We still need to find good compromises on key issues like taxation and revenue share,” Ferrer said.

Arriving at a compromise needs “flexibility” from both sides, Ferrer pointed out.
”We seem to be caught up in the trees and missing the forest,” she said. “Hopefully today we will find solutions.”

Ferrer stressed that “the government remains invested in the peace process.”
Aside from the wealth-sharing annex, both panels have yet to complete the annexes on power-sharing and normalization.

”We hope that in this round, we will be able to settle the remaining issues on wealth-sharing and continue discussions on power sharing and normalization,” she added.

With regard to the attacks launched in Mindanao by the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ferrer said the government is confident that security forces “can effectively address these incidents to prevent the escalation of violence.”

Malacañang also denied that the MILF panel walked out of the peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.

In a press conference, Valte said “the meeting yesterday was adjourned properly.”

On Thursday, President Aquino sent Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda to Kuala Lumpur.

”The presence of both secretaries is a manifestation of the continuing commitment of the President as well as the support of the Cabinet for both panels and for us to fulfill the aspirations of the Framework Agreement,” Valte said.

”It is an affirmation of the support, not just of the peace panel, not just of the OPAPP, but also of the President and his Cabinet,” she said.

Unquestioned sincerity
A lawmaker expressed belief that the government and the leadership of the MILF are both sincere in bringing long-lasting peace to Mindanao and will not take steps to disrupt the peace negotiations.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan said that both parties are on the right track towards achieving peace in the Mindanao but not everyone wants that to succeed and would do everything to stop it.

Honasan, who is a former Army colonel, was reacting to The Manila Times article about the supposed pact entered into by top MILF leaders with the renegade BIFF headed by Ameril Umbra Kato.

The information about the supposed agreement came from Abdulrakman Jalil, a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) monitoring team based in North Cotabato.

Jalil claimed that the MILF leadership has agreed to join forces with Umbra Kato and fight the government if the Bangsamoro framework agreement failed.

Honasan said that while there is a need to validate the information, the government should remain focused on the talks.

He added that the information could just be a part of the plan of other parties to sabotage the negotiations.

The annex on wealth-sharing is one of the three remaining annexes that have yet to be worked out by the government and the MILF.

The other two are the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

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