• Govt, MILF close to forging final deal – Almendras

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    Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras on Tuesday said he knew who was behind the “impasse” on peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    However, Almendras refused to give any names but made clear that both parties are “very close” to forging a final and comprehensive peace agreement.

    ”I’m not competent to answer the question. But I will not lie that I know who, but there are many things under consideration,” he said. “We are close to (forging a deal), yes. It’s not an impossible dream. Definitely, it’s not a stop-and-forget. We are moving there.”

    Almendras stressed that peace was “within reach” and he asked the rebel groups to be patient.

    He explained that both peace panels are ironing out the details of the remaining annexes. However, no date has been set for the resumption of the talks.

    “There are so many details that need to be looked at and there are issues that may—are precedent issues, antecedent issues that need to be understood fully,” he said
    “So I cannot put one finger into one—one reason kung bakit nade-delay. There are many small things that need to be cleaned up,” he added

    In the meantime, he said the government continues to deliver social services to the MILF communities, including granting scholarships as part of the Sajahatra program.

    To complete the comprehensive peace pact that would pave the way for the creation of the “Bangsamoro,” four annexes are supposed to be signed. These are the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements and modalities.

    The MILF had earlier expressed impatience over the delayed negotiations. On Tuesday, the deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, Khaled Musa, said the government is pushing for the resumption of the peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to pressure the MILF into accepting the amendments proposed by the government.

    Musa said sources close to the government said a meeting with the MNLF was supposed to have taken place at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila on June 17 to 19 but it was postponed indefinitely.

    Musa expressed belief that government is using the revival of talks with the MNLF as leverage to make the MILF accept the government panel’s move to amend what has earlier been agreed upon, including the already initialled annex on wealth-sharing.

    “It is a pressure to the MILF to accept a lesser bargain especially on wealth sharing. This is a form of driving a wedge between Moro groups,” Musa said.

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