• Govt, MILF resume talks; hope to seal arms deal

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    The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday resumed negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hoping to see agreement on the remaining annex on normalization that will be the basis for a post-conflict Bangsamoro.

    “We cannot afford to lose more time at the expense of the bigger task of implementation, and of the considerable progress we have already gained,” Government Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said as she opened the 43rd Formal Exploratory Talks of the     peace process with the separatist group.

    Both parties expected to sign the annex on normalization and the addendum on Bangsamoro waters. These are the last two remaining issue that would complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

    According to Ferrer, the normalization annex was a very contentious issue due to its diverse components—socio-economic, transitional justice and reconciliation, and security.

    “The security aspect alone is made up of several elements – disbandment of private armed groups, decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons, redeployment of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] from or within the Bangsamoro as the security situation improves, a halt to the proliferation of loose firearms, and transitional security arrangements that will see the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces collaboratively keeping the peace on the ground,” she said.

    But Ferrer cited the need to be realistic to meet the Filipinos’ expectation that their efforts would truly make a difference. “A difference for the better. A difference that is sustainable. A difference that will unite rather than divide. A difference that will bring about a sense of well-being and not stoke the fears and insecurities of the populace,” Ferrer said .

    “We’d need to put the right people and appropriate mechanisms in place, the benchmarks on which to measure our progress, and the protocols that will guide our actions, and instill discipline among our ranks. We must be able to sustain the integrity of our peace process,” she added

    “The many pages of the texts that we have initialed and will be initialing soon will have to come alive in the form of real-life changes.

    Very soon the main challenge would be to make this difference manifest, in the lives of our people, especially of those in Mindanao; in our institutions, especially those of government at different levels; in our mindsets and norms, especially that of our leaders in politics and society,” Ferrer concluded.

    The 43rd round of peace talks ends Sunday.

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