Philippines: Government attempts to restart stalled peace process, drops demands

Updated On: Mar 09, 2009
The Philippine government plans to host a review of its 13-year-old peace pact with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), President Gloria Arroyo's top peace adviser, Avelino Razon Jr, announced Saturday.
The third session of the Tripartite Implementation Review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) will be held from March 11-13. The major agenda of the three-day conference will be the government-MNLF Joint Working Group proposals to amend certain provisions of Republic Act 9054, otherwise known as the "Organic Act" of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The meeting will also discuss five other major topics of the FPA including Sharia law, the formation of a special regional security force and a unified command structure for the ARMM. Delegates from the General Secretariat of The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) who serve as a third-party facilitator will also be present.
The Philippine government seems eager to restart the stalled peace process, announcing earlier in the week that it has dropped its demand for the arrest of three rogue sub-commanders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a precondition for the resumption of the stalled south peace talks.
Razon and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, head of the government peace stated that the government was dropping its demand for the arrest of the three MILF commanders, namely Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo; Ustadz Ameril UmbraKato and Solaiman Pangalian.
The government-MILF talks broke down last August after the three MILF commanders mounted a series of attacks on civilian populations in the southern provinces of Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Sarangani following the non-signing of a territorial pact between the two sides. The country's Supreme Court declared the pact as unconstitutional on the eve of the scheduled signing in Malaysia. Government forces immediately mounted military operations against the three MILF commanders, forcing them and their men to flee.
The Philippine government’s removal of the precondition is viewed suspiciously by the MILF, who accused the government of “double talk”. On the MILF website (www.luwaran.net), MILF deputy spokesman Khaled Musa said that while government claims to drop its condition for the MILF to surrender three "rogue" commanders, the military had intensified its manhunt for them.
Xinhua News, Philippines drops pursuit of rebel leaders, talks resumption seen, 5th March 2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/05/content_10951659.htm
Gulfnews.com, Government confirms dates for Moro pact review , 7th March 2009, http://www.gulfnews.com/world/Philippines/10292662.html
Gulfnews.com, MILF scores gov’t 'double talk' on dropping preconditions, 7th March 2009,  http://www.gmanews.tv/story/151747/MILF-scores-govt-double-talk-on-dropping-preconditions

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