GRP awaits formal response from Malaysia on resumption of talks with MILF

September 25, 2010 11:34 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Sept. 24 -– The Philippines awaits the response of Malaysia, facilitator in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for the resumption of formal negotiations with the Muslim rebel group.

“A formal invitation has been sent to the facilitator of the talks. From all indications, they have responded positively,” Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the newly reconstituted peace panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said in a press statement.

“Upon receiving their formal response, our secretariat will, forthwith, communicate to the MILF through the facilitator our credential, a proposed agenda for the initial talks and the proposed details of the first meeting,” he said.

Talks between the GRP and MILF collapsed in August 2008 following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was ruled by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

However, backdoor negotiations continued and on Dec. 8, 2009 the two parties agreed to resume the stalled peace talks.

Leonen has welcomed the move of the MILF dropping their original demand of creating an independent state in southern Philippines.

He said “the stance of the MILF that they are not negotiating for independence, however, is not new. This has been communicated to the GRP panel the past administration (referring to the Arroyo government).”

According to Leonen, dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, the government viewed this “as the MILF’s openness to negotiate on the basis of what is necessary and politically viable…to seriously pursue the path to peace.”

Leonen quoted news reports attributed to Mohaqher Iqbal, chairperson of the MILF peace panel, that the MILF was not seeking independence in the forthcoming negotiations with the Philippine government.

Instead, the MILF has emphasized that they are reiterating their demand for a Bangsamoro sub-state, which contains more powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Leonen said that “in one newspaper’s account, Chair Iqbal is reported to have said that their proposals will require amendment of the present Constitution.”

“We choose to respond to these statements with prudence. Our principal role is to negotiate with the panel of the MILF and to consider only those proposals that are formally communicated to us,” Leonen said, adding that “our response to their formal proposals should be based upon our discussions with our principal and sensitive to the needs and input of all stakeholders.”

Leonen said that “at this point, speculation on the details of their proposals, whether the MILF will reiterate the contents of the documents they submitted early this year, as well as the legal forms that an agreed settlement will take will not be helpful.” (PNA) RMA/RBC/rsm

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