Mindanao peace a ‘personal commitment’
MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she is making the advancement of the peace process in Mindanao her “personal commitment” for 2009.
In her speech at the annual Vin d’Honneur for the diplomatic corps in Malacañang, Arroyo also said her government was ready to face the global recession and was improving on its human rights record.
“Closer to home, the economy will be the central focus of our government and advancing the peace process in Mindanao, my personal commitment in Mindanao,” said Arroyo, who wore a one-piece green embroidered dress patterned after the traditional “baro’t saya.”
Peace negotiations between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) collapsed in August after rebel forces raided civilian communities in central Mindanao after the Supreme Court stopped the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD).
The MoA-AD, which the high court subsequently declared unconstitutional, would have paved the way for the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).
“I hope 2009 will be a comeback year for peace, progress, and prosperity in Mindanao,” said Arroyo, who has ordered peace negotiations refocused from armed groups to the communities.
Papal Nuncio Edward Joseph Adams, dean of the diplomatic corps, welcomed the administration’s commitment to ending the Mindanao conflict.
“We are encouraged at your administration’s determination to revive, with all parties concerned, negotiations towards peace in Mindanao and to address the humanitarian problems that have been created subsequent to the armed conflict in that region,” Adams said.
Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said peace talks could resume by March or April, but with several countries acting as facilitator aside from Malaysia, which was the former sole facilitator.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Vin d’Honneur, Esperon said the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which oversees a ceasefire between the military and the MILF, will be broken up into three groups — security monitoring, economic monitoring, and DDR or disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
As the global recession deepens, Arroyo said she was “cautiously optimistic” going into the new year, but is confident the Philippine economy could weather the problem with a P300-billion resiliency package in place to pump prime the economy.
“We are upbeat that our sound economic management and our measures will see us through the tough times,” she said.
But Adams expressed concern over the financial crisis, saying, “The impact for the future of the global financial crisis of last year is worrying.”
“No nation is exempt and there have been already some repercussions for the Philippines, even though, thus far at least, the picture has not been so bleak here as elsewhere,” he said.
Arroyo also told the diplomatic corps that her administration’s commitment to upholding human rights was “paramount” as shown in the 90-percent decline in the incidence of politically motivated killings in 2008, compared to 2006.
“There will be no let-up in our campaign against human rights violations, including violence against women and children, human trafficking abuses on Filipino workers abroad, and the killing of political activists and members of the media,” she said.
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