Gov’t hopes facilitation issue on MILF talks will be resolved soon — Leonen

December 6, 2010 11:33 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Dec. 5 — The government is hopeful that the standing facilitator issue in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be resolved “very soon.”

Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel, made the statement over the weekend shortly after he arrived from Kuala Lumpur.

“This will pave the way for the series of exploratory and formal talks that will effectively address all other procedural, security and substantial issues,” Leonen said.

Leonen said that President Benigno S. Aquino III is grateful for the Malaysian government’s assistance in the peace talks, hoping that it will favorably consider the Philippine government’s concerns regarding the facilitation.

"The President has replied to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s November 2010 letter which stated Malaysia’s continuing interest to facilitate the talks,” he said.

Leonen said he hand-carried the letter through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In the courtesy call, Leonen also submitted his credentials, saying that this indicates the Philippine government’s “sincerest desire to immediately resume the peace talks.”

The chief negotiator added that the government panel has done its homework and is very much prepared to address issues, particularly the remaining substantive agenda relating to ancestral domain and governance.

On the issue of extending the International Monitoring Team’s (IMT) tour of duty in Mindanao, Leonen said that they are awaiting positive response from the governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs already sent notes verbales to the embassies on Wednesday, requesting their tour of duty of the IMT for three months from the end of its current tour on December 8, 2010,” he said.

Leonen said that the MILF’s positive response ensures the continuity of the mechanisms for monitoring and promoting the security, humanitarian and developmental aspects of past agreements.

“The Panel has the full support of the President and the Cabinet to undertake this task of cooperatively delivering peace in Mindanao with its negotiating partners, based on the principles of inclusivity, transparency and justice to all,” he said.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF collapsed in 2008 when the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which would have expanded the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), thereby giving the MILF larger area of control.

Since the scrapping of the homeland deal, rogue MILF units attacked communities in North Cotabato, Maguindanao and two Lanao provinces, displacing thousands of families.

But government forces have neutralized the offensive since then. (PNA)

scs/RBC/rsm

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