MANILA, MARCH 11, 2009
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - Malacañang is asking Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. to act as adviser to the government’s negotiating team in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Pimentel, speaking at the Regional Seminar of Parliaments in Promoting Peaceful and Sustainable Societies in Southeast Asia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, said Malacañang was planning to create a congressional advisory panel, to which he has been invited, to backstop the peace talks.

“I have not accepted it yet pending clarification of a number of things connected with the post,” he said in a statement.

Pimentel said the Arroyo government “remains at a loss on what peace formula to offer to the rebel group to get the peace process out of the doldrums.”

He emphasized that he was batting for a federalism plan.

The peace negotiations between the government and the MILF were stalled after the agreement on ancestral domain allowing the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

He said one of the options being considered by the government to address the issue was to amend the organic act that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

But he doubted whether the demands of the MILF to exercise broader government powers and to expand the territorial coverage of the autonomous region could be resolved by merely amending the law.

Pimentel, principal author of the ARMM organic act, said the Bangsamoro people believe that putting in place a system higher than autonomy can solve their problems.

He cited the urgency of resolving the problem so that the people in the areas of conflict can resume peaceful and normal lives and enjoy the benefits of economic prosperity.

“To ease the anxiety of our people, my colleagues in Congress are making many suggestions,” he said.

“In my case, I am espousing the establishment of a federal system of government that will include a federal state of the Bangsamoro in lieu of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” he added.

Pimentel reiterated his belief that the federalization of the Republic of the Philippines would speed up the economic development and dissipate Moro separatism and other armed rebellions.

He said he came to this conclusion after consultations with Moro rebel leaders, the ulamas, academics, youth leaders and politicians.

“To the last person, they are in general supportive of my proposal to create a Bangsamoro federal state out of the autonomous region,” he said.

Pimentel said the creation of a Bangsamoro federal state as part of a federalized Philippine republic was the last viable option left for the government with the scrapping of the government-MILF agreement on ancestral domain.

Tripartite meet

Meanwhile, the tripartite meeting between the GRP (Philippine government), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will open today to review the implementation of the 1996 final peace agreement signed by former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari with the Ramos administration.

The meeting, which will be held at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City, will be attended by a four-man delegation from the OIC headed by Ambassador Sayyed Kaseem El-Masry.

El-Masry, the special envoy of OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ilsanuglo, will be joined by OIC Directors Talal Daus and Taher Saif, and Ali Demirci, El-Masry’s special assistant for Southern Philippines.

Indonesian Deputy Foreign Secretary Reslan Jeni will preside over the meeting as chair of the Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP).

Resident ambassadors who are also members of the PCSP-OIC will likewise attend the conference. – With Jose Rodel Clapano

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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