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‘Only way to peace is to sign MOA-AD’–MILF chief negotiator

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:22:00 08/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The only way to a negotiated peace agreement in Mindanao is for the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to be formally signed, the chief negotiator of the rebel organization said Friday.

“Ay, pirmahan yung MOA [Sign the MOA],” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal replied when asked what would move peace talks with the government forward.

Iqbal’s statement came even as government forces continue to battle MILF fighters responsible for occupying villages in North Cotabato early this month and Monday’s attack on five towns in Lanao del Norte.

The renewed hostilities broke out soon after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the scheduled August 4 signing of the MOA-AD in Kuala Lumpur on several petitions for the accord to be declared unconstitutional.

With the renewed fighting and the Supreme Court case, the government has said that it was no longer signing the accord in its present form but would instead undertake a “thorough review” and “further negotiations” with the MILF.

But the secessionist organization has rejected the government proposal, insisting that the MOA-AD, which had been initialed ahead of the aborted signing, was a “done deal.”

Iqbal stuck to this assertion, explaining that the issue of ancestral domain “is the third and last aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001,” which formed the basis of the peace negotiations between the MILF and government. The other aspects have to do with security and a ceasefire, and relief and rehabilitation in conflict areas.

“If [the MOA-AD] is not signed, we cannot jump to the last agenda of the talks, the comprehensive compact,” Iqbal stressed.

“The position of the MILF is very clear, as early as August 5 in Kuala Lumpur… As far as the MOA-AD is concerned, it’s a done deal. We will not agree to any [further] negotiation. We will stick to it,” Iqbal said in a phone interview.

“It takes two to tango. Sa pag-uusap, sa peace talk, kailangan yung dalawa magkasundo [In peace talks, both parties should see eye-to-eye],” Iqbal said, adding, “You cannot impose. A negotiation is a trade-off.”

Iqbal refused to comment on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s announcement of a policy shift in the Mindanao peace process, wherein the government would talk directly to the communities, instead of armed groups.

But Iqbal took exception to Arroyo’s statement that disarmament was a prerequisite to resuming negotiations, saying, “Disarmament is part of post-conflict resolution.”

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-08-22T10:42:57+00:00UTC08bUTCFri, 22 Aug 2008 10:42:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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