• MILF accuses Manila of influencing international development partners

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has accused Manila of trying to slow the flow of development aid the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group is receiving from international organizations and countries supporting the peace process in Mindanao.

    Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, suspects the Aquino government is delaying the international support to the rebel group to gain leverage in the peace negotiations.

    “We express our grave concern over the reported government’s changing policy on our relations with development partners and the GPH instruction to these development partners to slow in their engagements with the MILF,” Iqbal said during Monday’s opening of the three-day talks in Kuala Lumpur.

    He said the engagements are essential for the success not only of the peace talks, but more importantly of the implementation of the peace accord that both panels may sign.

    “Given the short period of the transitions for the MILF and the continuing delay in the completion and signing of a comprehensive peace agreement, it become even more urgent that the MILF receives technical assistance, capacity development, development planning and resource mobilization to insure that when it takes the reign of government it is able to deliver and meet the expectations of the Bangsamoro people,” Iqbal said.

    He said the long delay in the restarting the talks have fuelled speculations and restlessness among some MILF members. “It is not good to hear these, but they were all expressed loud and clear. To many, the impression is that there is an impasse of the peace talks,” Iqbal said.

    The MILF has rejected a government draft on wealth-sharing in the proposed Muslim homeland, saying it was not what it is expecting.

    Iqbal said there was only a sigh of relief after the Malaysian facilitator Tenkgu Dato AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed arrived in Manila last month to talk to key government officials and MILF leaders to hasten the peace process. He said the two sides declared its commitment to solve the Moro problem.

    He said MILF chief Murad Ebrahim also wrote a letter to President Benigno Aquino 3rd reiterating his unwavering commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully. But Murad also informed Aquino of the growing frustration of the people and some members of the MILF over the delay in the talks.

    Iqbal said the President has written back to Murad, but the content of the letter was not made public. “The President responded positively to the letter. But I am so sorry I cannot disclose the content of the letter because I don’t have the mandate to do so. Our chairman did not allow that copies be made except one that is intended for the Facilitator for the record of the Malaysian Secretariat,” he said.

    He said negotiations are now in the critical stage and warned that “there are many spoilers who are waiting in ambush.”

    “As a negotiator for more than ten years, I have learned a lot of hard lessons. My experience tells me that there is no easy part of any real life negotiation. For this reason, I know that the road ahead of the current peace talks is still full of humps and bumps. But this is no reason to cause the failure of these talks. Sincere and committed partners in peace process will always find creative formula to get through any differences. If they don’t find one, this means one of the parties or both of them change policy from solving the conflict to not solving it,” Iqbal said.

    But he added that “too much pressure is building against us, especially on government. The civil society organizations way back home have already sounded the clarion call that we wake up and finish the process.”

    He said that at a recent summit on the Bangsamoro peace talks held in Davao City there was a call for the government and MILF to “sign the peace agreement now because time is running out.”

    AL JACINTO

     

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