Government to resume talks with MILF on Feb. 9

January 15, 2011 2:34 am 

MANILA, Jan. 14 — The government peace panel will resume peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Feb. 9 following the completion of initial discussions in Malaysia. The government panel just planed in Friday from Malaysia for the initial discussions there.

Chief government negotiator, lawyer Marvic Leonen said Friday that he would brief his principals first on what was agreed upon in their meeting.

He said the discussion in Malaysia on Thursday is that both parties are ready and eager to resume the talks.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) tour of duty ends on Feb. 28 but both camps have agreed that the IMT will stay. “We will talk about the formalities of extending the IMT’s mandate during the talks,” Leonen said.

He said the IMT is very important because it keeps the conflict in Mindanao to the barest minimum, which this year reached only 10 recorded conflicts between the MILF and the military.

Another reason for extending the term of IMT is the security guarantees for the MILF leaders, as agreed upon in 2001, which is to augment the security guarantee both camps will be issued identification cards.

He said any discussions on the agenda must have to be done solely on the negotiating table and that the talks in Malaysia did not exclusively tackle the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). The MOA-AD was earlier struck down by the Supreme Court.

Leonen said both parties are calling the negotiations in February as the 20th exploratory meeting.

The MILF, he said, gave the government the list of 25 detainees they refer to as “political detainees” and we have committed to review their cases but it does not preclude that “we will be releasing them as of now.”

He said the Philippine government is committed to give justice to the victims and their survivors of past atrocities committed by these detainees.

He said the peace talks with MILF is very broad and “we are putting on the table the items that should be in the agenda. He said a concrete agenda was crafted in Malaysia but he would not give details neither would he confirm if the issue on the MOA-AD will be in the agenda.

Leonen said both parties agree that terrorism, including kidnap for ransom, is not part of the accepted activities.

He said that as chair of the negotiating panel and for the talks to proceed smoothly he is committed to good faith and that means that items to be discussed in the negotiations must only be disclosed to both panels first before going to the public. (PNA) LAM/PCOO/rdlc/utb

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