MALACAÑANG on Saturday rebuffed the grim forecast of a government peace panel member that a peace pact with the Moro rebels may not be possible before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ends her term.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the Palace is optimistic of a “win-win” consensus despite the problem involving expanded autonomy in some parts of Mindanao.

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“We respect the opinion of (peace panel member Ronald Adamat) but we are still very optimistic a peace pact between the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the government can be signed before the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” Remonde said in a radio interview.

Adamat earlier said that local government officials opposed the proposal of the MILF to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

He said government executives who opposed the expanded autonomy included those in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Citing results of the consultations, Adamat said leaders of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi said any agreement signed between the government and the MILF may supplant the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

But Remonde said the Palace has faith in the government negotiators’ abilities, the MILF’s sincerity, and in the third-party facilitators including Malaysia and the International Contact Group.

“We are still optimistic a win-win solution, a consensus can still be achieved through the process of consultation,” he said.

Government and the MILF resumed peace efforts late last year with suspension of offensive military operations.

Peace efforts between the two sides were stalled in 2008 when rogue MILF commanders led attacks on parts of Mindanao, after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

Meanwhile, the MILF congratulated the former head of the Brunei International Monitoring Team (IMT) contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Bin POKSM DASP Hj Abidin, for his promotion.

Aminuddin was promoted recently to Major General and is now appointed chief of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF). His stint in the IMT in Mindanao started in October 2004 to August 2005.

The MILF sent a congratulatory message to Aminuddin for his promotion and assumption as chief of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

Signing the message was MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

“The leadership of the MILF has the pleasure to extend to Your Excellency its warm felicitations and heartfelt congratulations for your recent promotion as Major General and Chief of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF). Indeed, Your ... colorful tour-of-duty in the Bangsamoro homeland as first Group Commander of the Brunei Darussalam Contingent to the International Monitoring Team—Mindanao had shed light to the hearts and minds of the good people of Brunei Darussalam regarding the sufferings of their Moro brethren who are being oppressed by their colonizers since the Age of Colonization,” read part of the letter posted on the MILF website ( Saturday. (JMR/Sunnex)