In KL, MILF clarifies proposal for 'self-governance setup' in ARMM; GRP to counter at next meeting

March 5, 2010 11:14 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 5 — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has clarified its draft proposal for a “transition arrangement” that will convert the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into a “self-governance setup” during its question-and-answer meeting with members of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) panel on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur.

This was reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Friday afternoon, quoting Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis, who is also the GRP panel’s chief negotiator.

Seguis, who is being assisted in the panel by Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and former Lumad Indigenous Tribe Party-list Congressman Ronald Adamat, disclosed that the MILF presented its 11-page draft Declaration of Principles on Interim Governance Arrangements for the proposed Joint Comprehensive Compact. The MILF delegation was led by chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

DFA, however, did not provide details of the reported proposal and how the MILF clarified its position.

But it noted that the GRP panel has agreed to submit its counter-proposal to the MILF draft when the two sides meet again on a still undetermined date in Malaysia — the facilitator of the peace talks.

DFA also quoted Seguis as addressing the MILF panel: “We are now here to seek clarification from you as to the aspects of your drafts… Clarification only would be the purpose of this meeting and the next. The positions of both sides having been clarified, we hope that in the end we will come up with an agreement that is clear, beneficial, and – this is a special concern of the GRP panel – able to withstand any and all legal or constitutional hurdles, or hostilities, that may be thrown against it.”

According to DFA, Seguis commented that the government panel for the Comprehensive Peace Talks in Mindanao remains committed to forging a peace pact with the MILF following their March 4 meeting in Kuala Lumpur that was intended to clarify aspects of the MILF’s draft pact.

Seguis clarified that “there were no negotiations” at Thursday’s meeting, “but only a question-and-answer session which was cordial and frank,” DFA said.

Despite time constraints, both sides agreed that a significant interim agreement can still be realistically pursued, Seguis was quoted by the DFA.

Seguis was further quoted as saying that “the question-and-answer session held on March 4 concluded on an optimistic note as the GRP panel is now well-clarified on the concepts and provisions in the MILF’s latest draft document.”

”The questions were direct and we got clarification on matters we wanted to know more about,” Seguis said.

“The GRP panel’s sincerity is never diminished by the limited time we are given… We remain committed to understanding whatever you have to say, inasmuch as we hope the MILF panel would be committed to understand our ideas as well,” Seguis said in his opening statement in Kuala Lumpur.

The GRP panel “is exploring every conceivable means, and exerting every possible effort, to arrive at an agreement that is just, equitable, honorable, and acceptable to all parties,” Seguis added.

The DFA undersecretary reiterated at the meeting that the GRP panel’s negotiating stance proceeds from a deserved respect and deference to the Constitution.

He added that the MILF acknowledged that constitutional processes should be followed with respect to proposed provisions which would require Constitutional amendments.

“Whatever differences we may have, we are of one mind that we need to preserve our gains, and to agree on a clear roadmap on how to move ahead. We are committed to finding creative ways and alternatives towards forging a peace agreement, whether in the present administration or in the next,” Seguis further said.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) on Mindanao, still headed by Malaysia, has formally reassumed its activities and redeployed last Sunday to Mindanao after more than a year of not operating. Brunei, Japan and Libya complete the IMT.

To this encouraging development, Seguis remarked that “this is indeed an enormous impetus to the peace process, for the presence of the IMT reminds us of the necessity and the inevitability of thrusting the talks forward.”

”I thank the governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Japan and Libya for sending their IMT contingents and manifesting their commitment to the peace process. This bodes well for the other states and international organizations invited to be part of the IMT,” Seguis said.

DFA also reported that after the question-and-answer session, both GRP and MILF panels held separate dialogues with members of the International Contact Group — that groups Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey and four non-governmental organizations and are merely observers, not direct participants, in the discussions.

Seguis expressed gratitude to Malaysia’s Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak, head facilitator, “who continues to play an invaluable role in enhancing the dialogue and ensuring the engagement of the two panels.”

The ICG members were also acknowledged “for their willingness to play a positive part in the formal and informal processes of the negotiations.” (PNA)

scs/GJB

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