GPH, MILF 34th exploratory talks open in Kuala Lumpur

December 12, 2012 11:16 pm 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Dec. 12 -– The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday resumed their 34th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur that will tackle the most contentious issues of the peace process with the end in view of resolving the long-drawn armed conflict in Mindanao.

Expected to be discussed thoroughly during the negotiations will be power and wealth sharing.

In her opening statement, newly named GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said “the government is ready to give all the support necessary to jumpstart the process.”

This is the first time that Ferrer sits as GPH chair after former GPH chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen vacated the post after the latter was appointed as associate justice of the Supreme Court by President Benigno S. Aquino III recently.

Ferrer submitted her credentials to the Malaysian government as host of the negotiations, through third-party Facilitator, Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed.

She also provided a certified copy of her appointment paper to Mohager Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator.

Ferrer said she is formally joining at opening “the 34th Exploratory Talks, the 15th formal meeting under the incumbent administration, today on 12-12-12.”

“I do this now in a different capacity from the past times that we have come to Kuala Lumpur. Today, I come as the new chair of the Government Panel for Talks with the MILF — so designated to this position of responsibility by the President of the Republic of the Philippines Benigno S. Aquino III,” she said.

“We have returned here in Kuala Lumpur with high hopes. After the fateful 32nd Exploratory Talks last October 1-7 when we completed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the 33rdround where we auspiciously convened for the first time our Technical Working Group on Normalization, we have come back to Kuala Lumpur with fortitude to resume our work,” Ferrer stressed.

She also said that “we have returned confident of the wide public support back home for a process that has concluded one phase and began another.”

Ferrer pointed out that the wide range of government offices involved in various meetings in Kuala Lumpur and in the Philippines “indicates the high level of support the peace process with the MILF enjoys in the whole government under PNOY’s leadership.”

“It reflects the firm determination of the bureaucracy, through the crucial coordinative and kulit-ative role of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, to finish the work. That is, to finish it well, with eyes wide open to the difficulties that then and now have confounded the negotiations, and with arms ready to embrace innovative solutions and practical approaches,” she said.

Ferrer disclosed that the government’s technical working group on power-sharing is ready to complete with their MILF counterparts the text that will make up the Annex on Power-sharing.

Upi Mayor Ramon Piang, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Undersecretary Chito Gascon and OPAPP Undersecretary Joe Lorena shall be navigating once more with their counterparts the three lists of allocation of powers.According to Ferrer, they will do this knowing that:

the categories are not airtight nor strictly defined; and

that all aspects of exercise of power are ideally practiced under the governing principles of cooperation, parity of esteem, autonomy and subsidiarity, check-and-balance, the need to harmonize and to meet norms and standards, and ultimately the shared goal of ensuring the safety, welfare and the needs of the parts and the whole, especially in the face of natural disasters and dangers to national survival due to unusual weather disturbances brought about by climate change and the wanton exploitation of God’s or Allah’s gifts to humankind.

“In previous meetings, the Government’s Technical Working Group on Wealth-sharing had shared with their MILF counterparts all the relevant data that reflect the challenges to the reconstruction and financial sustainability of the future Bangsamoro,” she said.

Ferrer said that another ticklish matter to be discussed is “the decommissioning of combatants and weapons we understand very well is normally what any armed revolutionary group fears to tread.”

“There is fear of being left defenseless in a landscape populated by so many other armed groups and individuals,” she said.

Ferrer said “there is uncertainty of combatants and their families of what future awaits them under a new phase where different skills, trainings and orientation would be needed; where protection shall be weaned away from reliance on the barrel of the gun toward faith in what the power of communal efforts, nonviolence and resiliency can achieve for individuals, families, communities and the Bangsamoro at large.”

“There is insecurity that the reforms anticipated would be stalled; that the political commitments fall behind the road map that both parties have plotted; that even good intentions would be waylaid by insidious agents of the unacceptable status quo,” the new GPH chair said.

Ferrer point out that It took a mature social movement like the MILF:

To learn from experiences around the world that ultimately, the choice of peace would mean putting beyond use the need for arms and the use of political violence to achieve political ends.

To strategically envision the transformation of an armed movement into a socio-political force able to mobilize communities for social and economic development.

To have the courage to take the risk to navigate previously abhorred, unchartered terrain such as the legislature, governance and election. To be able to stand up, act, implement and compete fair and square over ideas, programs under the precept: May the best man, woman or party win.

“This courage and maturity, government will meet with reciprocity. Our processes may be bogged down sometimes by the bureaucratic maze that involves any paper work or the system of check-and-balance that are imposed on us and with due diligence, that we also impose on ourselves,” Ferrer said,

“But we should not be discouraged by seeming insurmountable,” she said.

At the same time, the GPH panel hand carried a special gift with them.

“We were not aware what this gift was all about. Our office was just asked to pick up a package at the Palace with the instruction to bring it to Kuala Lumpur during this round,” Ferrer said.

It is a gift for Mrs. Murad from no other than the President’s sister, Kris Aquino and requested Iqbal “to deliver, in behalf of Ms. Aquino, to the family of MILF chair, Ebrahim “Kagi” Murad, this framed and autographed photo of Ms. Aquino with an entourage of MILF women. Ms. Aquino had thoughtfully remembered her charming encounter with the MILF ladies at the signing of the Framework Agreement in Malacanang last October 15.”

“We have also added other photos as souvenir for chairman Murad,” she said.

Ferrer also said that “to the hardworking members of the Malaysian secretariat under Madame Che Kasna, and to the illustrious members of the International Contact Group who have kept the faith with us every step of the way: our traveling companions from the governments of UK, Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia; from the INGOs, CR, The Asia Foundation, CHD and Muhammadiyah.”

Joining the GPH panel members in addition to former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, Undersecretary/Presidential Adviser for Muslim Concerns Bai Yasmin Busran Lao,and MSU Professor Dr Hamid Barra “we have asked the Chair of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, lawyer and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at the University of the Philippines, and former commissioner of the Commission on Elections, Secretary Mehol Sadain, to join the panel while the appointment papers for the 5th Panel member are being processed in Malacanang.”

The GPH team that has worked tirelessly with the different agencies the last three weeks include Senior Police Adviser Police Chief Superintendent Noel de los Reyes, and GPH’s chair of the CCCH, Brig. Gen. Jose Gilberto Roa.

Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, commanding general of the Philippine Army, and Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya will join the GPH panel on Thursday.

On the other hand, Ferrer said, National Economic Development Authority Region 12 Director Lourdes “Babes” Lim, the Department of Finance’s Bureau of Tax Director, Trinidad “Ning” Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Anselmo Abungan are ready to continue collaboration on drafting a working text that will lay down the parameters for short to long-term economic sustainability of the future Bangsamoro.

“Given the development needs and fiscal realities in the region, achieving a good measure of economic viability and fiscal autonomy for the long haul cannot but happen in a gradual and phased manner. The Government is ready to give all the support necessary to jumpstart the process,” Ferrer added.

She said the GPH Technical Working Group on Normalization looks forward to coordinate with their counterparts.

The group is led by Deputy Director General of the National Security Council, Zenonida “Zen” Brosas.

The other members are: Colonel Francisco Ariel Felisidario, representing Senior Military Adviser of the GPH General Crescencio Ferrer; and alternate members from the OPAPP, Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo and incoming Assistant SecretaryJennifer “Apple” Oreta.

“Among Tausugs, there is a saying: “In maksud mahunit, makawa landu in halga.” As translated by Usec Joe Lorena, “Ang bagay na kinuha ng mahirap, marami ang makikinabang.” In English, from something achieved the hard way, many will benefit,” Ferrer said.

“Let us not lose heart, forgetting the forest, as we walk through the trees,” she added.

“In the same spirit of reciprocity, we anticipate the difficulties that the MILF will have to face similar to other vibrant organizations that went through a paradigm shift before,” she said.

Ferrer warned that “there will be recalcitrants inside: mga pasaway sa organizational command at disiplina ng mga pinuno ng MILF. There will be malcontents to the gradual and evolutionary approach that we have taken.”

“Outside, there will be one too many agitators,those who will invoke religion, ethnicity, nationality, constitutionality and so on, NOT in the sincere desire to contribute to peaceful, progressive and inclusive reform, but to provoke violent dissent or to advance personal interests,” she said.

“All these humps and bumps, roadblocks, diversions, pitfalls we will be able to overcome if we remain honest and committed to the partnership, a partnership that is not only between the Government and the MILF, but for our peoples. May our trust and friendship grow,glow…go forth and multiply by three dozens, from today 12-12-12,” Ferrer concluded. (PNA)

FPV/RBC/UTB

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