MANILA, OCTOBER 15, 2012 (MINDANAO EXAMINER) The Philippines cancelled a scheduled press briefing Saturday evening of Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Manila.

The Department of Foreign Affairs- Public Information Services Unit earlier told journalists that the: “The press briefing of OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu scheduled at 6:45 p.m. today will be at Manila A Function Room of Makati Shangri-la Hotel.”

But hours later, it said: “The OIC Secretary General cancelled his press briefing scheduled at 6:45 p.m. today, October 14.”

Filipino officials did not say why the press briefing was cancelled ahead of Manila’s signing of the peace pact on Monday with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Manila and the MILF also agreed to the creation of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region which shall replace the existing five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The OIC has officially recognized the larger Moro National Liberation Front which is opposed to the new peace agreement by the Aquino government to the MILF, saying it violated the September 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine government.

Manila invited Ihsanoglu along with Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak to witness the signing of the historic peace deal.

Malaysia, an influential member of the OIC which is brokering the peace talks, played a key role in the negotiations between the Philippines and the MILF which is fighting for self-determination in the southern region of Mindanao.

This is the first visit of Najib to the Philippines since he assumed office in 2009. He will be accompanied by his spouse, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, and the Malaysian ministers of foreign affairs, defense and international trade and industry.

Formal diplomatic relations have been nurtured through the years ever since a Philippine legation was established in Kuala Lumpur in 1959. But the Philippines’ claim to the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah remains an irritant between the two countries. The Sultanate of Sulu originally obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on Borneo Island.

The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north. The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. (Mindanao Examiner)

(Mindanao Examiner) Posted by The Mindanao Examiner at Sunday, October 14, 2012

MNLF now says it won’t go to war over new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao

[Photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner by the Sulu provincial government show MNLF chairman Nur Misuari speaks to Sulu Governor Sakur Tan during a one-on-one meeting in Zamboanga City over the weekend. Misuari assures Tan that they will not resort to war despite the MNLF opposition to the new Bangsamoro autonomous region which shall replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.]

Zamboanga City (Mindanao Exminer / Oct. 14, 2012) – A former Libyan firebrand Nur Misuari, whose group has opposed Manila’s peace deal with the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front, doused fears that it could spark a new war in the southern Philippines.

[PHOTO -Leader of the Moro National Liberation (MNLF) Nur Misuari]

Misuari - who heads a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front that signed a peace agreement with the government in September 1996 – made the assurance during a meeting with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan in Zamboanga City over the weekend.

Misuari is opposing the new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro that Manila and the MILF have agreed.

It would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. And several more areas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato would also be included in the new autonomous region, which Misuari said violated the 1996 peace accord.

Misuari was quoted by the Philippine media as saying that the new Bangsamoro autonomous region could spark unrest and may lead to war in Mindanao.

“I was misunderstood. What I said was the framework (of the peace deal) might be a recipe for a crisis which may include war,” Misuari told Tan.

[PHOTO -Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan prays with other Muslims in Patikul town.]

Tan earlier said he would meet and talk with Misuari to convince him that the Aquino government is sincere in achieving peace in Mindanao.

“If I want hostilities to resume, why would I announce it? A person who understands war knows that the element of surprise is very important; I would have kept silent if that was what my intention. In fact, I am running for ARMM governor this coming May 2013 polls. I am a politician now, we only want what is good for our people,” Misuari said.

Tan said MNLF commanders have been going around some parts of Sulu and that he explained to them the government’s peace process. “MNLF commanders are making their rounds in some parts of Sulu and I was able to talk to them and sinabi ko na pagbigyan nila tayo tungo sa kapayapaan. I also sent word to my brother Chairman Nur Misuari and one of these days mag-uusap kami.Ipinarating ko sa kanya na maging mahinahon, sa ganitong paraan we can resolve any misunderstanding and have genuine peace in Sulu and the whole of Mindanao.”

“I have made my appeal to everybody to keep their cool. Walang mangyayari sa atin kung tayo ay babalik na naman sa nakaraan, kawawa ang mg tao dito sa Sulu at sa buong Mindanao,” Tan said.

Civil society and religious groups in ARMM also echoed Tan’s appeal for peace in Mindanao and said they are supporting the government’s peace process. Tan said he welcomed the group’s support and appealed to Muslims in Mindanao to rally behind peace process.

“We cannot sacrifice again the people of Mindanao; they have already suffered so much. I told the (MNLF) commanders that the government is sincere in pursuing peace in the region; and that their role as leaders of the MNLF is very important in the achievement of this goal, as leaders they should set the example,” Tan said.

“Walang repormang mangyayari kung ang kapayapaan ay hindi natin pagbibigyan. I will not support and allow anything that is not pro-people at handa akong makiusap at pigilan ang kahit sinong grupo na magsisimula ng gulo dito sa Sulu at Mindanao.”

Tan said all the ARMM governors are supportive of the government’s peace talks with the MILF, not the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

“Jolo and other populated areas of Sulu are always the first to feel the brunt of war from the MNLF. We must recall that Sulu was the center of the MNLF uprising in 1969 and Jolo was totally burned down in 1974 during the fiercest battle between the MNLF and the military under the Marcos Administration. We have done so much to bring progress and stability back to Sulu and I can’t allow that to happen again,’’ Tan said.

Tan assured Misuari that the Aquino government is taking efforts to explain and consult with the people in Mindanao about the new peace framework.

“An information campaign on the Framework Agreement will be mobilized so that our citizenry will understand what this agreement is all about and decide competently for themselves if they want this to be part of the future of the Bangsamoro People,” Tan told Misuari.

Despite Tan’s assurance, Misuari still doubts the outcome of the peace deal between the government and MILF noting that he signed peace agreements with Manila, but many of these accords were never implemented.

“In fact, claims that the MNLF was consulted on this matter were untrue. I will not tell a lie to say we were never consulted,” Misuari told Tan, referring to the new Bangsamoro region of the MILF, which broke away with the MNLF in 1978. “I feel insulted about the government entering into an agreement with such a small group,” Misuari said during the meeting with Tan.

Tan said the President is sincere in achieving peace in Mindanao. “What is important to me is the constitutionality of the agreement and its potential to attract investments in the region to spur economic growth by resolving the question of providing a climate of good governance in the scheme of things,” Tan told Misuari.

Tan reiterated his appeal to Misuari to let the peace process take its course and see where it will go, adding that “we must support all peace efforts as the only way to finally bring stability and progress in Mindanao."

“I got Misuari’s assurance to keep peace in Mindanao, more so in Sulu,” he said.

Last week, Misuari and Mujahab Hashim, the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council chairman, raised strong objections to the government’s signing of the new peace accord with the MILF and threatened to return to war.

“Because there is no other recourse now for the (MNLF), at least the majority of the senior leaders of the MNLF, we have no other recourse but to go back to the original objective of arms struggle,” Hashim warned. (Mindanao Examiner) Posted by The Mindanao Examiner at Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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