17-year GPH-MILF negotiation comes to a close

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


SEVENTEEN years of political negotiations between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) comes to a close in Kuala Lumpur Saturday as their respective peace panels forged the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

“The Annex on Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is already done,” the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) announced it on its Facebook page.

Earlier, the parties forged an Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters that they skipped during last month’s exploratory meeting that led to the consensus on power sharing.

Based on OPAPP’s newsfeeds, dignitaries from Congress have streamed into the venue of the supposedly 5-day exploratory meeting that began Jan. 22.

As of 3pm Saturday, they included Sen. Teofisto Guingona III; Reps. Zajid Mangudadatu of Maguinanao, Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur, Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, Jim Hataman of Basilan.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III and Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Nu?o arrived earlier in the bustling Malaysian capital.

Greater hopes

Inspiring greater hopes of the final breakthrough is the presence of presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles in OPAPP’s photo releases in buoyant mood, Mindanao Peoples Caucus secretary-general Mary Ann Arnado observed earlier.

Since July last year, the presence of Lacierda and Deles in the exploratory meetings indicated something positive afoot in the negotiations.

The forging of an Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and an Annex on Normalization to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will pave the way for the formulation of a comprehensive agreement which will expectedly be a compilation of all the consensus documents of the parties.

As chief negotiators Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal of the government and MILF, respectively, affix their signatures to the two documents, 17 years of negotiations for a political settlement of the Moro rebellion in Mindanao will come to pass.

The peace process between government and the MILF began Jan. 7, 1997 with discussions on agenda-setting that took place at the rebel group’s Da’wah Center in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. During that time, the MILF put forward a single agenda: “How to solve the Bangsamoro problem.”

The joint press release that signified the conduct of the initial meeting was signed by assistant secretary Jovenal Lazaga and Major Gen. Joselin Nazareno for government, and Prof. Moner Bajunaid and lawyer Lanang Ali for the MILF.

The conclusion of negotiations comes 15 months after the parties forged the landmark preliminary Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro last Oct. 15, 2012. The parties originally set end of 2012 to complete the entire comprehensive agreement.

Presiding over the kickoff rites Wednesday, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato' AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed said the forging of the annexes on transitional modalities, wealth sharing, power sharing, and an upcoming one on normalization “is very, very painstaking... and very, very tough.”

Tengku added, “each of the annexes is an agreement by itself.”

“Each (of the annexes) is not a pushover; it has been discussed thoroughly, negotiated thoroughly,” he said, apparently to impress upon the journalists who were invited for the first time to witness the kickoff rites.

Real-life changes

The current meeting of the peace panels is the 43rd round of exploratory talks between the parties; it is the 24th under the Aquino administration.

Gleaned from the pioneering efforts to deal with the Moro rebels in the negotiating table, the expected breakthrough brings to a close 39 years of peace talks. According to Moro writer Salah Jubair, the first meeting of government and Moro rebels, then represented by the Moro National Liberation Front (MILF), was on January 18, 1975 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Organization of Islamic Cooperation).

“The many pages of the texts that we have initialed and will be initialing soon will have to come alive in the form of real-life changes,” Coronel-Ferrer has said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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