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Wednesday, Nov. 01, 2006 at 8:23 PM
firstname.lastname@example.org 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
News sources in Mindanao reported today that the Philippine government failed twice to meet a self-imposed deadline to submit a new proposal to break a deadlock in peace talks with the Moro islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over territory, increasing anxiety over when the talks would resume.
GRP seeks new deadline in talks with MILF
COTABATO CITY—News sources in Mindanao reported today that the Philippine government failed twice to meet a self-imposed deadline to submit a new proposal to break a deadlock in peace talks with the Moro islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over territory, increasing anxiety over when the talks would resume.
Negotiators of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the GRPt asked that it be given until Nov. 15 to submit a new proposal on a dispute over territory that has proven to be the biggest stumbling block to a peace agreement with the Muslim guerrillas.
The Arroyo government (GRP) earlier promised to submit a new proposal on Sept. 30 but failed to do so. It sought an extension of the deadline to Oct. 30 but again failed to meet it.
MILF leaders quoted government negotiators as saying they were to consult with other groups and needed more time to present a new proposal on territory.
Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, said he was personally willing to extend the deadline to Nov. 15 but the MILF has yet to decide as a group.
“It’s difficult and crucial but in the name of peace, there must be more patience,” said Iqbal.
The talks were suspended over the negotiators’ failure to agree on the size of the territory that was to be put under MILF governance.
The MILF was demanding that 1,000 villages be made part of the territory, to be called Bangsamoro Entity, but the government was willing to grant only 600 predominantly Muslim villages.
The talks were also delayed by the MILF demand to create the territory without a plebiscite, which the government flatly rejected.
“We are for the constitutional process, if that’s what they want,” said Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs.
But Jaafar said the villages should “not include the 600 villages that the government was willing to part with.”
“Our position is for the remaining villages that we are demanding to be included will have to be voted upon by the people in a plebiscite,” Jaafar said.
President Macapagal-Arroyo was quoted as telling Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahman Badawi, whose government was hosting the talks, that her administration wanted any agreement during the talks to go through the processes of public consultation and ratification.
Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government and guerrilla panels’ meeting this month was reset to give way to the holding of the Asean Summit in Cebu City.
In the meantime, clashes were reported to continue to disrupt a fragile ceasefire agreement between government troops and the guerrillas.
On Sunday, four MILF guerrillas were killed when government forces shelled guerrilla positions in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.
Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, said the Army started the clash by firing cannons at rebel positions. The Army said the shelling was an act of defense against rebel attacks on a military outpost.
Kabalu accused the Army of launching the attack because “apparently, they want the peace talks to totally collapse.”
Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, 6th Infantry Division spokesman reported to the media that the MILF rebels attacked an outpost of the 64th Infantry Battalion, prompting soldiers to return fire.
“We have to defend ourselves. They (MILF) attacked our men using high-powered firearms. And so soldiers in the field retaliated,” Ando said.
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