• Palace smoothes MNLF’s feathers

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    Malacañang has once again asked the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to participate in the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would govern the future Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    Presidential Communications Secretary Hermnio Coloma Jr. reiterated that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not just for the MILF but for the entire Bangsamoro people.

    “Ang nais po ng ating pamahalaan ay maging kalahok ang pinakamaraming stakeholders, yun pong may mga taya sa katahimikan o kapayapaan sa Mindanao. Kasama pa rin naman diyan yung ating mga kababayan na kasapi ng MNLF dahil doon sa mga naunang panahon sila ay nagsikap din na maitatag ang kapayapaan [Our government wants as many stakeholders taking part in the peace process as possible. This includes fellow Filipinos who are members of the MNLF, which in the past also fought for peace],” Coloma said on state-run dzRB radio.

    “Kung maaari po ay kasama ang pinakamaraming Pilipino na naniniwala sa mga batayang prinsipyo na atin na pong nailinaw at nabuo sa Bangsamoro Peace Agreement [If possible, we want as many Filipinos as possible to support efforts for a peace agreement],” he added.

    On Saturday, government and MILF negotiators signed the last annex that would pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement.

    The international community on Sunday congratulated the Philippine government and the MILF for overcoming the last hurdle to a comprehensive peace agreement.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the peace accord that would end four decades of conflict.

    In a statement issued by Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, the secretary-general lauded the negotiating teams of the government and the MILF for “their perseverance, courage and commitment in having reached this important milestone in the peace process.”

    “The secretary-general welcomes the signing of the last of the four Annexes to the ‘Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro’ of 2012… The completion of the formal negotiations paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” the statement read.

    Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the Commission, also congratulated the two parties.

    “The signing of the Annex on Normalization marks the end of a long and difficult process of peace negotiations. It is a truly historic moment, demonstrating the parties’ commitment to achieving long lasting peace on the Philippines’ island of Mindanao through a unique and holistic concept of normalization that encompasses the gradual decommissioning of arms, overall demilitarization, and its economic and social development,” she said.

    Ashton added that the EU, as member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and a major development partner of Mindanao since 1990, will continue supporting the implementation of the process.

    The United States (US), Japan and the EU were also upbeat about the breakthrough, calling it a historic moment that could finally bring peace to the region.

    “This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

    Meanwhile, British Foreign Minister William Hague likewise encouraged the “quick and full implementation [of the peace accord]by all parties.”

    “The successful conclusion of negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a comprehensive peace agreement is a significant step towards lasting peace and development for Mindanao,” he said.

    “Ending the long-running conflict will not just benefit the region, including Muslims, Christians and Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, but is vital for the security and economic development of the Philippines as a whole,” Hague added.

    Former EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair Macdonald also expressed hopes that the courage and confidence brought by the signing of the agreement will be carried over to the election of the Bangsamoro Assembly and the creation of the Bangsamoro Government in 2016.

    On the other hand, local leaders and individuals in Maguindanao were relieved on the signing of the peace pact.

    Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu described the pact as “sweeter” to the Maguindanaoans and to the entire people of the Philippines.

    “We’ve suffered the brunt of MILF-led insurgency, a sad reality that emboldened our endeavor to carry out every possible measures aimed at restoring normal life in our province. This is why our administration has been all-out in rallying the peace process,” he said.

    However, both MILF and government negotiators admitted that more efforts should be done to end cases of rido (family feuds) that threaten peace and order in Moro-dominated areas.

    The provincial governments of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur have solved more than 80 rido cases through local reconciliation and unification efforts.

    The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo however accused the two panels of prejudicing the interest of the stakeholders in the Sulu Archipelago.

    “The Sultanate of Sulu will be the first to support any group wanting to establish the peace process. However, it has to be in accord with historical truths and the rights of people ancestrally governing the territories now under the GRP-MILF framework agreement,” Abraham Idrijani, secretary-general and spokesman of the Sultanate of Sulu, told The Manila Times.

    He cited the wealth sharing provision of the peace agreement covering the Moro Gulf, which prejudiced the rights of the Sultanate, as “the MILF changed its historic name Sulu Sea.”

    Idjirani said the inclusion of the Sulu Sea by the government and MILF in the agreement without any prior consultation proves their prejudice against the interest of the Sultanate of Sulu and its ancestral constituents.

    He said various groups comprising of different stakeholders are preparing a political position on the issue, which will be manifested by the Bangsa Suluk People of the Sulu Archipelago.

    WITH RITCHIE A. HORARIO

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