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AFP: Peace pact with MILF by April

by Pesante-USA Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 at 10:49 AM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

A peace agreement with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expected early this year, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disclosed yesterday. "A final peace agreement with the MILF would be signed by March or April," Esperon told a press conference held at the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters here. The contentious issues affecting the peace negotiations, particularly disputes over ancestral domain, are now being discussed by both panels, said Esperon, who arrived here as part of a series of camp visits to implement the second phase of President Arroyo’s campaign against insurgency.

AFP: Peace pact with MILF by April


By Edith Regalado
The Philippine Star 01/10/2007

DAVAO CITY – A peace agreement with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expected early this year, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disclosed yesterday.

"A final peace agreement with the MILF would be signed by March or April," Esperon told a press conference held at the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters here.

The contentious issues affecting the peace negotiations, particularly disputes over ancestral domain, are now being discussed by both panels, said Esperon, who arrived here as part of a series of camp visits to implement the second phase of President Arroyo’s campaign against insurgency.

"The talks on the territorial issue are now brought to the barangay level. It would then lead to the signing of the peace agreement," he added.

However, both panels have yet to break the impasse since September over disagreements on territory and ancestral domain.

The MILF rejected the government’s proposal that the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity shall include the expansion of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but subject to constitutional processes.

The government then submitted a new proposal last November that appeared to be more acceptable to the MILF and the rebel group signified its intention to return to the negotiating table soon.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told The STAR that the signing of a final peace accord would be left to those in the negotiating panels.

"Sana lalong mabuti kung magawa yan (It would be better if it can be done) that a final peace agreement would be reached by March or April, but we still have to talk about it in the negotiating table," Kabalu said.

Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the government’s peace initiative with the MILF and other rebel groups made great strides last year, which contributed to the increased stability in the country.

Dureza said the government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), was able to strengthen the peace process and continue the rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected areas.

"Peace talks took a high gear last year, and so was the quest for a just and lasting conclusion to peace accords with various rebel groups as well as the pursuit of the implementation of all such agreements signed for the last 20 years," Dureza said in a statement.

"On the negotiations with the MILF, interim agreements were signed on the aspects of security and of rehabilitation and development, with the government and the MILF continuing to strengthen joint ground mechanisms while pursuing capability-building programs and confidence-building measures," he said.

The United Nations World Food Programme (UN-WFP) has begun the distribution of food rations in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat in support of the peace process with the MILF, he said.

He said on the ancestral domain, the government peace panel presented to the Cabinet Security Cluster its revised counter-proposal to the MILF last Nov. 7, and three days later, submitted the proposal to the MILF through the third-party Malaysian secretariat.

Ancestral domain, or which areas are to be declared Moro homeland in Mindanao, is the most contentious issue in the peace talks with the MILF. -

With Paolo Romero

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