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RP hopes to resume talks with MILF before IMT tour ends

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:02:00 06/06/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government will act on the counter-proposal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the ancestral domain issue to pave the way for the resumption of formal peace negotiations before the mandate of international ceasefire monitors ends on September 9.

The chief government peace negotiator, Rodolfo Garcia, issued the statement as his counterpart in the MILF, Mohager Iqbal, warned that “violence” could erupt in Mindanao unless the International Monitoring Team (IMT) receives a new mandate.

Garcia said the new round of negotiations would continue discussions on the ancestral domain issue, and would also tackle the renewal of the IMT’s tour.

A Palace legal team is studying the counter-proposal of the MILF on scope of the Moro homeland, which is the result of the last round of formal peace talks in Kuala Lumpur last February.

“The next event that would have to happen is that after we have presented it to the
Cabinet, there will be a meeting. Hopefully everything is okay and it will be approved and we can go on the resumption of the talks,” Garcia said, referring to the results of the study.

“[The peace panels] will have a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, very much ahead of the deadline, or the end of the term of the IMT,” Garcia said in a phone interview.

The MILF’s counter-proposal, Garcia said, covers three points: the “concept of freedom” of the Bangsamoro people, jurisdiction and control over resources, and institution-building.

Garcia said the Palace study would determine if any of the contested points would violate the law, or would require Constitutional amendments, which he said, “the government is considering.”

In a separate phone interview, Iqbal pressed on the government to act on their counter-proposal on the ancestral domain issue, saying “time is running out.”

“The IMT was responsible for the reduction of violence in Mindanao. If there is no IMT, it could result in something that is not good… If they get out, if the premise is correct, then necessarily violence will arise again, not necessarily by the MILF,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal warned that some groups, which he refused to identify, could “take advantage of the vacuum” when the IMT’s term ends and “add to the problem in Mindanao.”

The government has appealed for patience from the rebels while the study on the MILF’s counterproposal was underway.

But Iqbal said: “We’re consuming time. We’re running out of time. That is the problem. That should not be too difficult. They have lawyers in their peace panel.”

Iqbal said the “dilly-dallying” if the government could reinforce the belief of some MILF commanders that the government was not delivering on its commitments and could cause them to lose trust in the MILF leadership.

“The credibility of the MILF leadership is questioned. We are saying that the most civilized and practical way to solve the problem in Mindanao is through negotiation,” he said.

“Finally, we reached this point, when all the government needs to do is to sign [and] they just hang around, they just dilly-dally. That reinforces the thought that the government is not worth talking to,” he said.

Malaysia has decided not to renew the tour of duty of its contingent to the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which oversees the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF. Malaysia is also the third-party negotiator for the peace talks.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-06-06T15:46:36+00:00UTC06bUTCFri, 06 Jun 2008 15:46:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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