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Wealth sharing stalls GRP, MILF talks

By , Nikko Dizon

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday sent two Palace officials to Kuala Lumpur to boost the morale of peace negotiators, a day after talks to end four decades of Moro insurgency in Mindanao adjourned without an agreement.

The talks were supposed to end on Thursday, but negotiators for both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reached no agreement on the wealth-sharing provision of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the two sides signed last October.

At the request of the government panel, however, the MILF panel agreed to extend the talks for one day.

On Friday, again at the request of the government panel, the MILF negotiators agreed to continue talking until Saturday.

Mr. Aquino sent presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda to the Malaysian capital to affirm the government’s commitment to the preliminary peace agreement.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the presence of the two officials was a “manifestation of the continuing commitment of the President as well as the support of the Cabinet for both panels and for us to fulfill the aspirations of the framework agreement,” Valte said.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Inquirer that the MILF panel initially appeared reluctant to go to the negotiations on Friday.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief negotiator, said the talks appeared to be “headed for an impasse.”

Good sign

Still, the MILF panel showed up at the negotiations, which the source viewed as a “good sign.”

In a statement sent to reporters in Manila on Friday, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the two sides “still need to find good compromises on key issues like taxation and revenue [sharing].”

“We seem to be caught up in the trees and missing the forest,” Ferrer said.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach both Ferrer and Iqbal on Friday after learning that the two panels would continue the negotiations Saturday.

The gloomy end of Thursday’s talks appeared to have dashed any hope that a comprehensive peace agreement with the MILF would be signed before President Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 22.

After a delay of four months, the two panels resumed negotiations this week amid hopes that the question of wealth sharing would be resolved in a few days.

Revenue division

The disagreement between the two panels centers on the division between the government and the MILF of revenue from “energy sources” and tax collection in the proposed Bangsamoro territory, officials said.

The MILF has proposed a 75-25 percent sharing, with the larger share going to Bangsamoro.

The government wants a bigger share and, according to Valte, the state negotiators are working within the limits set by the government.

The document, initialed by the technical working group in February, underwent review by President Aquino and his Cabinet as part of “due diligence” by the government, Ferrer said earlier.

Until this week, the talks did not move, exacerbating the MILF’s frustration over the slow progress of the negotiations.

The two panels had reached an agreement on three of four annexes to the framework deal. The annex on wealth sharing is the last and it is proving to be the most contentious one.

The government wants a final peace agreement with the MILF before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016.

Time running out

But with negotiations on wealth sharing dragging on, the MILF says time is running out on a final peace deal with the Aquino administration.

Some members of the government technical working group returned to Manila on Friday. Those from the MILF are expected to return Saturday.

Staying in Kuala Lumpur are the government panel led by Ferrer and the MILF group led by Iqbal. With a report from Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao

 


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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Edwin Lacierda , Kuala Lumpur , Mindanao , Miriam Coronel-Ferrer , Mohagher Iqbal , Moro Insurgency , Peace Process , presidential adviser on the peace process , Teresita Deles



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