Gov't, MILF resume peace talks

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) - The peace panels of the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), along with their respective Technical Working Groups (TWGs), returned to the negotiating table Monday, November 12, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 33rd round of Formal Exploratory Talks. 

The main agenda for the week-long session will be to thresh out the details of the Three Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing and Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which are expected to be finalized by December.

"We expect this round to be difficult as both parties will be fleshing out the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, & normalization," Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles said in a statement.

Government peace panel chairperson Marvic Leonen earlier said he is positive all three annexes will be finished before the end of the year as the TWGs for the power-sharing and wealth-sharing annexes have already been meeting for the past 3 rounds of talks. 

"The talks for the two annexes are more advanced," he said in a dinner meeting with reporters.  

All three annexes, which will complete the final peace agreement, will be discussed simultaneously. Leonen said the TWGs for each annex will first work together to create the drafts, which will then be transmitted to the peace panels for further negotiations. 

International spotlight

During the opening ceremonies, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed lauded the amount of support that the Framework Agreement received from the international community after its signing in Malacañang last October 15. 

But he also warned the negotiators that "the world is watching."

In his opening statement, Leonen acknowledged the global acceptance that has been expressed for the Framework Agreement and urged both panels to work towards completing the peace deal. 

“Our work on the annexes takes place within this umbrella of hope," he said.

"I am certain that both of us will try to find solutions in order to complete the Comprehensive Agreement, preferably in this round. All of us now are part of history, let us work together some more to make that history truly matter," he added. 

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal turned the spotlight on the TWGs, saying that much of the negotiations for this part of the talks “rests on the technical working groups.”

“The spirit of compromise is still very strong. I believe we can settle all the issues,” Iqbal said.

Normalization

Iqbal has admitted that the provisions on policing, which will be tackled under the annex on normalization, was the most difficult part of crafting the Framework Agreement. 

Describing today's meeting, MILF peace panel member Abdulla Camlian said the negotiations were tough on the matters of policing, decommissioning, and gradual redeployment of government forces.

“I don’t expect a smooth-sailing on the issue of normalization; there will be no breakthrough at least during this meeting [sic],” Camlian said in a statement posted on MILF's website. 

Camlian said the panels will be discussing specific aspects of the agreement such as: the MILF “political detainees”, inter-governmental relationship, transitional arrangement and modalities, third party monitoring team, independent commission on policing, multi-trust fund, and joint normalization committee. 

Members of the TWG on normalization on the government side were National Security Council Deputy Director General and Undersecretary Zenaida Brosas, GPH panel senior military adviser Brig. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer, OPAPP consultant Dr. Jennifer Oreta. Meanwhile, the MILF was represented by Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces member Mohammad Hashif, former Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo and MILF Ceasefire Committee chief Said Sheik. 

Serving as "government observers" for the TWG on normalization are OPAPP Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo, Department of Interior and Local Government representative Jesus Doque, Department of Justice representative Prosecutor Susan Dacanay and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) representatives Lt. Col. Haroun Al-Rashid and Lt. Col. Francisco Felicidario III.

Members of the TWG on wealth sharing are: (for the government) National Economic Development Authority Regional Director Ma. Lourdes Lim, Department of Finance Executive Director Teresita Rodriguez and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Anselmo Abungan; (for the MILF) Dr. Benjamin Domato, Dr. Mahid Macalingkang and Archie Buayah.

The TWG on power-sharing is composed of Upi, Maguindanao Mayor Ramon Piang, OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena and Office of Political Affairs Undersecretary Chito Gascon on the government side; and Dr. Habib Macaayong, Ustadz Anwar Sirad and Prof. Ali Ayuib on the MILF side. Rappler.com