THE government peace negotiator to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the peace panel intends to be "as transparent as possible" during peace negotiations.

But because the term of the President is only for six years, Marvic Leonen, chair of the Government of the Philippines Panel for Talks with MILF, said it has set its own deadline to resolve the conflict within six years.

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"This administration has six years. We hope to be able to find implementation of a politically negotiated settlement within that time. It may be difficult to expect perfect peace, some naysayers have said it is possible. To them, I say that not trying sincerely would be the greatest tragedy. For those who have kept on trying, we all know that peace is indeed possible," Leonen said.

He said transparency is given because of how the negotiations in the past have created conflict because "the negotiations were done secretly and without involving the views of key stakeholders."

"We will be working formally through the reconstitution of an advisory panel, and informally through various conversations in many media, with all stakeholders. This includes the members of the legislature, local government leaders, civil society - especially the peace advocates," Leonen said during a forum dubbed "Development Agenda for Mindanao under P-Noy Administration."

The forum was held at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City on Saturday.

Leonen said they are now reviewing the consultations done in the past, as well as checking on any progress achieved or theory posited to see if these are still relevant to the present times.

He also said that peace is possible by abiding with the original challenge for both parties: how to solve the Bangsamoro problem, which was how the MILF phrased it when they first agreed to sit down and talk peace.

The negotiations, however, continued to be led astray by other interests as a result of a "deeper systemic problem."

"This was exacerbated by the former administration that merely paid lip service to the quest for true peace, security, and progress. In (the President's) words: For close a decade, the present administration has wasted opportunities to resolve our internal conflicts and move this nation forward. Instead, it exploited the conditions spawned by the internecine conflict for political gain. It chose to coddle warlords willing to deliver command votes come election time rather than arrest them and implement the law," he said.

This was epitomized by the rejection of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which he said taught valuable but costly lessons to peace advocates.

"The absence of a clear national policy and coherent strategy for peace negotiators led to confusion and false expectations across the table; the negotiations were done secretly and without involving the views of key stakeholders whose futures depend on the 'promise of Mindanao'," he said.

"Moreover, negotiations were done in haste to meet deadlines set to gain 'brownie points' from an expectant international community; and the result was a patchwork of provisions in a document that caused greater division than unity," he added.

Simplifying Aquino's policies, Leonen said the peace process will be made under four components:

(1) the process should happen based "on a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of the conflict";

(2) conducted under "clear policies that pave the way ahead, and driven by a genuine desire to attain a just and lasting peace";

(3) restoration of "confidence in the peace process that is transparent and participate"; and

(4) envision a "peaceful, secure, and prosperous future under one sovereign flag."

"I must say that all those who signed on to work on the peace process from government's standpoint do not have the appetite for palliatives. A comprehensive understanding of the root cause of the conflict frames a viable solution. We are aware that peace can only be the result of the dynamics of a politically negotiated settlement, its social and cultural support, its viability to assure sustainable economic development and its ability to assure a convincing tendency to maintain good governance," Leonen said.

Leonen also detailed that government services for rehabilitation will be delivered during the peace process.

"The economic cost of the armed conflict is devastating. The current situation of relative peace - though - satisfactory could be better. Hence, even as the peace talks are driven with due and deliberate speed; basic services, rehabilitation and economic development will continue to be delivered. This is as it should be because poverty in all its incarnations should not be tolerated," he said.

Leonen said under the Rehabilitation and Development Component, existing mechanism include the Mindanao-Trust Fund for Reconstruction and Development, a multi-donor trust fund lead by the World Bank. "This mechanism allows development partners to pool and coordinate development assistance for conflict-affected areas," he said.

This initiative started March 2006 and is currently on its second phase although it has slowed down in the early part of the year because of the transition of administrations.

But so far, Leonen reported, 91 projects have already been completed and turned over to the communities and the Bangsamoro Development Agency has also been created.

Supporting these is official development assistance from other governments that cover civilian protection, infrastructure, education, leadership and governance training.

The new administration, he said, already acknowledged the role of the assistance in the road to peace and has appealed for the projects' continuance. (Jade C. Zaldivar)