Full text of Seguis statement at peace talks sessions in KL

April 20, 2010 7:47 pm 

MANILA, April 20 — Below is the full text of the opening statement on Tuesday of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis, Chairman of the Philippine Government Peace Negotiating Panel in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur.

Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak, Malaysian Chief Facilitator, Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel, and members of the International Contact Group were at the sessions.

”Excellencies,

”I thank the Chief Facilitator, Datuk Othman bin Abd Razak, for making the arrangements to this meeting between the GRP and MILF Panels. This presents another opportunity for the two parties to sit down and talk, and discuss face-to-face the issues that stand in the way of adopting a framework agreement.

”I thank my counterpart Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, and the rest of the MILF Panel for sharing the negotiating table with us again. I am certain that you have come here today with openness and dedication to reach an agreement.

”I also thank the members of the International Contact Group not only for your presence today, but more importantly for the proactive role you are playing in these negotiations, and the determination to assist the parties preserve the past gains and reach common ground.

”The GRP Panel, during the Q&A Session last 4 March 2010, listened to what the MILF Panel’s viewpoints and comments. And based on what we have learned and understood from that session, we came up with a revised proposal that seeks to proactively address the concerns and aspirations of our two sides, while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls that had led to a judicial decision declaring the MOA-AD unconstitutional.

”The GRP’s proposal for a framework agreement, the Agreement on a Governance Framework under the GRP-MILF Peace Compact, deserves more than perfunctory reading. It is comprehensive and substantial, and we trust that the other side properly appreciates the intention and context of the draft.

”There are apprehensions that the GRP Panel is making the Constitution and legal processes alibis for not giving in to MILF demands, and that it is exceedingly wary of another TRO which hampers its flexibility to agree on substantive points.

”I must reiterate that the GRP Panel is not hiding behind the Constitution or existing laws. It is in fact open-minded about the possibility of recommending certain changes to the current constitutional and legislative set-up, as required by the dynamic and changing realities on the ground and the larger aspirations of our peoples. But any change in the law or the Constitution has to be made through a process that follows and respects the existing legal framework. This is pursuant the mandate given by President Arroyo to the GRP Panel, which I intend to uphold.

”We can talk and agree on recommended desired changes to the Constitution and laws in the spirit of mutual accommodation and joint problem-solving. Such will not only give further life to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, but finally peace, tranquility, and economic progress for all.

”We have seen the grim consequences of the aborted MOA-AD. We cannot afford these to happen again. That the GRP Panel is bent on forging an agreement that is well-crafted – following extensive study, discussions and consultations – and meets all constitutional and legal tests, does not spell conservatism in these negotiations. Rather, it is about prudence that truly serves the best interest of both Parties.

”As we have listened with open minds the last time, we entreat our counterparts to listen to our explanation how the GRP revised proposal addresses MILF’s concerns. It is also not the final one, as we are aware of the need for continuous and two-way dialogue. Perhaps the MILF Panel can come up with a better formulation after it has given us the opportunity to explain, and after it has understood the contents and context of our updated proposal.

”US Chief Justice John Marshall said, “To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well.” To listen is thus essential to all genuine conversation or dialogue.

”While we talk here today about each other’s drafts, we also need to listen… to listen well. It is only in true listening that we shall realize that our staunch positions can be softened, the disparity of our standpoints can be bridged, and the rigors of negotiations can be eased. We only need to talk, and listen.

”On behalf of the members of the GRP Panel, I look forward to a fruitful two-day session of talking and listening. I am hopeful that the two Panels can truly understand each other, and in the end reach an agreement.

”Together, we have come a long way. Together, let us walk the rest of the way to an agreement, and to peace.

Thank you.” (PNA)

vcs/GJB

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