PH gov’t, MILF hope to sign annex on wealth sharing agreement

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MILF political affairs chief Ghadzali Jaafar. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Monday resumed talks in Kuala Lumpur on wealth-sharing in the envisioned Bangsamoro autonomy, amid concerns that clashes with Moro insurgents would spill over into the holy month of Ramadan.

Both government and MILF panels flew to Kuala Lumpur with high hopes that the annex on wealth-sharing would be signed by the end of the week.

The government panel presented its proposal on the controversial annex while the MILF submitted its counter-proposal, officials said.

“The government’s proposal had more than 10 major points and we answered them point by point,’’ Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said by phone from Mindanao, where he was monitoring the peace negotiations.

Sensitive provisions included the percentage of share by the government and the MILF on “energy sources’’ such was water, wind and possibly, oil in the future Bangsamoro territory, Jaafar said, but declined to go into specifics.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told the ANC that the MILF proposed 75-25 percent “across the board sharing,’’ in the group’s favor.

The goal in this week’s  talks would be to eventually sign the annex on wealth sharing, Jaafar said.

“We received information that the GPH wanted an agreement signing after the meeting. That’s likely, but it all depends on the discussions,’’ he said.

“If the government embraces the MILF position with an open heart and mind, why not? If anybody wants to sign an agreement, that’s us.’’

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to reach Secretary Teresita Deles for update on the peace talks, but she was attending a Cabinet meeting on the proposed national budget for 2014.

Signed on Oct. 15, 2012, the framework agreement on Bangsamoro was seen as a blueprint for a final peace deal since it provides for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity with greater political and economic powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

MILF leaders had expressed frustration with the delay in the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement, saying formal talks had yet to resume after the May 13 mid-term elections.

Clashes between Army soldiers and insurgents from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) threatened to derail the talks and escalate into the Ramadan, which begins this week.

MILF has expressed concern that the clashes, if these would spill over into larger areas, would disrupt Ramadan and displace fasting Muslims, and called for a stop to the military operations against the insurgents.

But Malacañang said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines “would keep the peace’’ during Ramadan.

Jaafar said the operations launched by elements of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division against BIFF rebels were coordinated with the MILF.

“If the operations continued, this will bring so much hardship on the Muslim believers who are fasting. Some will be forced to leave their homes; they will be displaced and evacuate,’’ he said. “Secondly, there’s possibility that the clashes would unnecessarily involve our forces, and escalate into wider areas.’’

That’s why the operations should be stopped, Jaafar said “It will not derail the talks, provided it will not escalate into bigger or wider areas.’’

But Undersecretary Abigail Valte said: “Col. [Ramon] Zagala says that the AFP will keep the peace during the Ramadan and will act accordingly should harassment continue to persist.’’

Malacañang also expressed confidence that existing mechanisms would prevent clashes between government troops and BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF.

Valte said the coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) of the government and the MILF were two such mechanisms.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process was “confident that the escalation can be prevented by the CCCH and the AHJAG and other security mechanisms,’’ Valte said.

BIFF rebels launched attacks on government troops in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces Saturday night.

The attacks, which triggered clashes that killed five soldiers and 18 rebels, were seen as attempts to derail the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

The BIFF, led by former MILF commander Ameril Umra Kato, has rejected a preliminary agreement to establish a new Bangsamoro territory, vowing to fight for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao.

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