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Phil. Gov’t enters “final, crucial stages” of peace talks with MILF, says Deles

Government peace negotiators enter what they hoped to be “the final, crucial stages of negotiations” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the two panels resume discussion on unresolved issues in the 31st round of Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said today.

In a statement, Deles said the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel “remains cautiously optimistic on the prospects of signing a GPH-MILF peace agreement this year.”

This optimism comes from the “strong desire from both sides of the table to sign a peace agreement in the earliest possible time,” Deles added.

Deles said the determination of both GPH and the MILF panels to forge an agreement was “shown by the serious preparations undertaken on each side for every round of peace negotiations, including coming up with solutions to address the difficult issues still being discussed on the table.”

During the previous round of talks, Deles noted, both panels cited in their joint statement that their respective Technical Working Groups (TWGs) have reached consensus on the issues on power sharing and revenue generation and wealth sharing arrangements between the Philippine government and the proposed new autonomous political entity (NPE) that is envisioned to replace the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“But there is also no denying that the issues still on the table will not be easy to settle as in critical details of power and wealth sharing, territorial scope, and normalization to include disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the MILF’s troops, pointed out Deles.

She added that another indication that could signify the desire of both parties to be able to craft an agreement was “the clear cooperation of the MILF leadership in dealing with the attacks of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and its armed wing the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)” in the towns of Maguindanao and North Cotabato since last month.

In a previous joint statement, the GPH and the MILF panels said that they “will work together to ensure that these spoilers will not succeed as the Parties continue to push forward to bring just and lasting peace to our peoples and communities.”

Deles said the Aquino government was firm with its position to pursue law enforcement operations against BIFM, led by Ameril Umra Kato.

Kato, Deles said, is not considered part of the MILF and thus not covered by any ceasefire agreement. The MILF disassociated itself from Kato’s renegade group last year and declared him as a “bougat or one who defies or does not obey an order” and engages in lawless actions.

At a time of the observance of the 9th National Peace Consciousness Month, Deles expressed hope that “utmost goodwill will prevail on the table and that the interests and the welfare of the communities most affected by the conflict will guide the two sides to seek and affirm common grounds when the going gets rough.”

During Sunday’s Peace Month kickoff with 1Goal for Peace, Deles said that “the time for peace is now.” She called on the Filipino nation to rally behind the “gains of the peace process” saying that the peace process being pursued by government “would achieve more milestones if more Filipinos will support it.” #

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