(1st Lead) GPH-MILF exploratory talks in KL: A major step forward — Leonen

April 24, 2012 9:51 pm 

MANILA, April 24 – “A major step forward.”

This was how Marvic Leonen, chairman of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel, described the 27th formal exploratory talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the identification and signing of the decision points on principles identified by both parties that provides a new level of momentum in the negotiations in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

The document will serve as the framework for the peace agreement.

“Today, we move forward with a healthy amount of optimism tempered by prudence, recognizing the need now, more than ever, to be guided by lessons from the past and the needs of our people on the ground,” Leonen said.

“This marks a significant and concrete step forward by both Parties in their discussions of the substantive issues in these negotiations,” stated Leonen who explained that the listing of common points come from the panels’ respective initial positions -– the MILF, from their February 2011 Revised Comprehensive Compact, and the GPH, from its August 2011 ‘three-for-one’ proposal,” Leonen pointed out.

Not the final peace pact

Leonen explained that “this document is not yet the final peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

He said the GPH and MILF signed the document and they mutually recognized that there are various outstanding issues that still require further discussions between the panels and more difficult decisions for their principals.

The outstanding issues and the common points will be contextualized in the final peace pact, Leonen said.

Leonen vowed that the document will be made public as part of the government’s transparency program.

Putting the decision points into writing and opening them for the public to see, discuss and debate on are part of the government’s commitment “to maintain transparency” and “to continue dialogues and consultations with affected sectors,” he said.

Leonen reiterated the government’s determination to pursue a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We look forward to the coming weeks of more thorough (perhaps, more difficult) conversations with the MILF and various affected sectors, with the understanding that only through peaceful and candid dialogues, open and public consultations and continuous reflections can a sincere, effective and acceptable solution be arrived at,” he said.

“Those who choose to be cynical of the objective to attain peace in Mindanao by peaceful means have indeed freely remarked that the ongoing peace talks have not achieved ‘much,’ especially with respect to the substantive issues at the core of the negotiations. Today, we dispel this cynicism,” Leonen added.

He said the listing is neither an “exclusive statement of all common points” nor a “detailed and precise statement of agreements,” but a “memorandum for the Parties of the general directions of the substantive negotiations, described in broad strokes.”

At the same time, the panel chair said that the listing contains initial points of agreement, such as power and resources sharing, and creation of an autonomous political entity that can replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), among others.

“The autonomous political entity envisioned is a secular political unit, existing within the Republic of the Philippines, located within its territory and subject to its sovereignty as a State,” Leonen stated.

He also said that the government of such political entity “shall also ensure guarantees of human rights and liberties for its inhabitants, such as religious freedom, the right of women to meaningful political participation, and freedom from ethnic, religious or sectarian harassment, in addition to rights already enjoyed.”

Both panels also agreed that the people should be actively engaged in “determining the role of Shariah courts and the Islamic principles of justice and fairness in the region to promote the efficient administration of justice.”

Joining Leonen in Kuala Lumpur are panel members Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Hamid Barra, Senen Bacani and Yasmin Busran-Lao. Also present are Brig. Gen. Leo Cresente M. Ferrer, GPH Senior Military Adviser; Major Carlos T. Sol, Secretariat Head of the GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities; and Brig. Gen. Roland C. Amarille, Chair of the GPH Ad Hoc Joint Action Group. (PNA) DCT/scs/RBC/utb

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