‘Frustrated’ Moro rebs say they’re losing faith in peace process

MANILA, JUNE 17, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Nikko Dizon - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has told the government it is “frustrated” with the slow progress of peace negotiations, warning that its ground commanders are losing faith that the decades-long separatist insurgency would be resolved soon.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said on Friday the MILF sent its message through Malaysian facilitator Abdul Ghafar.

In its message, the MILF said it “is frustrated about what is happening to the peace talks and the MILF is very, very much concerned about what is going on,” Jaafar told reporters by phone.

Jaafar said the MILF ground commanders were “slowly losing faith and hope that the Bangsamoro issue would be resolved through talks … They are angry because they have been waiting for a long time.”

“As far as I am concerned, this is not a very good situation,” Jaafar said, citing what he called “the erosion of confidence and trust in the Philippine government that it is really decided to address the Bangsamoro issue.”

Jaafar said the MILF’s frustration stemmed from the delay in the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement, which he said appeared to be “deliberate.”

Delays deplored

He said that, for one, the government had said formal talks would resume in Kuala Lumpur after the May elections and yet up to this time no schedule had been set.

While waiting for the talks to resume, there should have been an exchange of notes between the two panels but this has been delayed as well, he said.

Jaafar also said it was only recently that the MILF had received government proposals to amend the wealth-sharing annex in the so-called “framework agreement,” or proposed blueprint for a final peace accord. The MILF central committee had asked for time to study these proposed amendments.

More clarity

The MILF has protested the government’s move to make changes in the annex, saying the two negotiating panels had already affixed their initials to it.

In a statement earlier, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said “even without the conduct of formal meetings, the peace process continues to move forward.”

“Government hopes this process will allow the parties to gain more clarity with respect to the current language of the annexes and lead them to an agreement on the unresolved issues,” Ferrer said.

She said that while the wealth-sharing annex had indeed been initialed by the two panels, “prudence on the part of the government requires that it undergoes a final review before the President gives his final stamp of approval.”

Changes needed

Ferrer said the amendments to the wealth-sharing annex were being proposed to ensure that the Bangsamoro entity to be set up “will enjoy effective and meaningful fiscal autonomy and also take into account the legal, political and administrative constraints of the central government.”

“These are the considerations as to why the government wishes to introduce some changes to the draft annex, particularly with regard to some aspects of taxation, fund-transfer mechanisms and revenue sharing,” she said.

Jaafar said the MILF continued to believe in ending the Mindanao conflict peacefully and “in the seriousness of President Aquino in solving the issue.”

“But he better check and ensure that what he wants [in the negotiations] to attain peace is what will prevail,” Jaafar said.

120,000 dead

It has been rough sailing since the signing of the framework agreement, with the two panels still hammering out the details of the annexes on wealth sharing, power sharing and normalization.

The proposed Bangsamoro region sought to be created aims to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

The government and the MILF began peace talks in 1997.

More than 120,000 people have died in the Muslim rebellion since it began in the 1980s.

First posted 6:42 pm | Friday, June 14th, 2013

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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