Govt, MILF renew peace negotiations

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CRUCIAL TALKS Presidential adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza (L), shakes hands with Murad Ibrahim (C), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before sitting down for their first meeting in Kuala Lumpur. AFP PHOTO

CRUCIAL TALKS Presidential adviser on the peace process, Jesus Dureza (L), shakes hands with Murad Ibrahim (C), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before sitting down for their first meeting in Kuala Lumpur. AFP PHOTO

KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines restarted peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday, the first under President Rodrigo Duterte aimed at ending decades of violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Negotiators for the two sides said the weekend talks in Malaysia will discuss details of Duterte’s peace road map.

“They will discuss the road map to clarify certain issues. But let me warn everyone, it is not an easy task. It is very complicated,” Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, told reporters without elaborating.

The MILF has waged a bloody insurgency in Mindanao since the 1970s but an accord signed in 2014 had raised hopes of a lasting peace.


Under the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the rebels will surrender their firearms after a law was passed creating an autonomous homeland in Mindanao and a regional government was elected.

The vote was meant to take place alongside the May 2016 general election.

However, a bungled raid into MILF territory that killed 44 police commandos in 2015 derailed the passage of the law and stalled the peace process with the rebels.

Dureza described the relaunching of the talks in Malaysia, the first formal sit-down between the two sides since Duterte took office, as a “big milestone for peace in Mindanao”.

MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said he welcomed fellow Muslim rebel Nur Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to join the transition commission to establish the “Bangsamoro” autonomous region in the south.

“For the inclusion of brother Nur Misuari, the MILF welcomes him joining because we believe there has to be inclusivity in finding a solution to the problem in the Bangsamoro homeland. We need all the players to be onboard,” he said.

While there were some people in the southern Philippines inspired by the Islamic State jihadists, Ebrahim said “if the peace process was successful, they (IS) will not garner the people’s support.”

Full force

Dureza said the launching of the peace talks inaugurates “a crucial phase of the Bangsamoro peace process.”

“We have agreed that the negotiations phase is over and now it is time to implement what we have agreed we will do,” Dureza said in a statement.

He said the Philippine government “has come in full force” to show that is serious about the implementation of all the peace agreements it has signed with the MILF.

Dureza was accompanied by Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, and Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

He assured the MILF that Congress is “a strong partner for peace not just for the Bangsamoro and Mindanao, but for the entire Philippines.”

“By being present on day one, we are assured that the executive and the legislative branches are both on the same page as we implement our peace agreements,” Dureza said.

“These congressional leaders will also make sure that the Bangsamoro enabling law will be in sync with the proposed shift to a federal system of government,” he added.

Dureza said the new Bangsamoro political entity “can be the pilot of a federal state that embodies meaningful autonomy.”

“With their support, we have no doubt we will see an early enactment of an inclusive Bangsamoro enabling law,” he said.

Also present during the launching were Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., Interior Secretary Mike Sueno and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.

Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman was also present a sign of commitment “to work for the convergence of all the Bangsamoro peace agreements to make it truly inclusive with no group or sector left behind.”

He said the President gave a clear directive: “No more waiting, start implementing what can be done now while we are crafting a more inclusive enabling law.”

“[The President] also emphasized how it is important to make this implementing stage primarily an all-Filipino process consistent with the principles of self-determination and autonomy,” Dureza said.

The government’s implementing panel is led by Irene Santiago, who has been involved in the Bangsamoro peace process for almost 40 years. Members of the panel include Undersecretary Diosita “Jojo” Andot, Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso and Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion.

WITH AFP

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2 Comments

  1. kale alaskador on

    1. Why is the peace talk being held in Kuala Lumpur? Why not in the Philippines?

    2. Mr. Murad Ebrahim seems to be threatening Philippine government that if the peace talk fails, the IS will be supported by the MILF!

    3. There should be peace. But not at all cost! It should be impressed upon the MILF that like all other Filipinos, they must swear allegiance to the government and its constitution.