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Asean hails Bangsamoro pact

Burmese President Thein Sein (in photo) hailed the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a “great achievement” when he opened the 24th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Naypyidaw, Burma. AP PHOTO/GEMUNU AMARASINGHE

NAYPYIDAW, Burma (Myanmar)—President Aquino on Sunday held up a peace pact with Moro rebels as a model for conflict resolution in the region, but called for rehabilitation of the survivors.

Burmese President Thein Sein hailed the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a “great achievement” when he opened the 24th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) here.

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Addressing the other Asean leaders, Aquino spoke about the Philippine experience in negotiating a peace deal with the MILF after four decades of conflict.

“This recent success of the Philippines motivates us to share our insights on peace, conflict resolution and reconciliation with our esteemed colleagues in the Asean,” he said at the full session on Asean integration.

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After all, he added, “peace in any part of the world redounds to the benefit of all.”

With peace, stability, inclusivity and progress follow, and “more doors of opportunity” open for the southern Philippines, the country, and partners and friends, Aquino said.

The government and the MILF signed the peace agreement in March after 17 years of on-off negotiations.

Putting deal together

After a crucial, much-criticized meeting between Aquino and MILF chair Murad Ebrahim in Japan in August 2011, the Aquino administration opened exploratory talks with the MILF and signed a framework agreement on the establishment of Bangsamoro, a new Moro autonomous region in Mindanao, in October 2012.

Over the next 15 months, negotiators on both sides worked out agreements on transitional arrangements and modalities, revenue-generation and wealth sharing, power sharing, and normalization, completing the comprehensive peace agreement.

Aquino said the successful peace talks contributed to Asean’s “growing experience” and best practices in promoting a culture of peace and respect for diversity.

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“Included in our work to establish a strong, stable and peaceful Asean community is the task of building on the values and best practices of our institutions in addressing intra-, inter- and regional conflicts,” he said.

And given that peace is a “fundamental concern” of all, Aquino said, sharing best practices “allows us to address problems and challenges more comprehensively.”

The President expressed hope that the peace agreement would “add to the body of experience” that could inform conflict-resolution practices in Asean.

Positive dev’ts

In his opening statement, U Thein Sein, chair of Asean this year, called the other Asean leaders’ attention to positive developments in the region.

“The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in the Philippines on March 27, 2014, is a great achievement,” he said, drawing applause.

“All Asean member-states extend their full support for the efforts to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao,” he said, congratulating Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries for contributing to the achievement.

Aquino urged Asean to go beyond research and capacity-building, and consolidate narratives of peace, distill its lessons “to forge a consensus” and institutionalize “habits of peace-building.”

“We believe that documenting Asean’s wealth of experience in conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy can guide all of us in building a stronger, more peaceful, and more stable Asean community,” he said.

Rehab of survivors

But more important, Aquino said, Asean should be concerned with the recovery and rehabilitation of survivors of conflict situations, especially mothers and children who bear the “disproportionate burden” during conflicts.

“Let us always remember that our efforts do not, and should not, end with the cessation of hostilities and the signing of agreements. Peace is built every day, through all of our individual actions,” he said.

Then he briefly recounted the experience of MILF leader Murad and his family.

“The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was the first such occasion that chairman Murad’s wife had ever visited our capital, Manila. Both of them had witnessed many years of conflict—years during which chairman Murad and his companions had to isolate their loved ones in special communities to protect them from the ravages of conflict,” he said.

Role of women

Citing the key role of women in the peace talks, the President proposed the promotion of gender mainstreaming in peace-building, peace process and conflict resolution.

The government’s chief negotiator is a woman, referring to Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and half of the members of the government’s negotiating team are women, he said.

“This example only highlights the prominence of women in Filipino society—where they are empowered to take part in all aspects of nation-building,” Aquino said.

“Perhaps we can all agree that women and children are traditionally and historically the least consulted, but also the most affected sectors during times of conflict,” he said.

“As mothers, women look at violence not only as a conflict between groups but also in how violence can affect or influence their children and their family. In this light, then, their contribution to building peace takes on a paramount role.”

Aquino pressed for the full implementation of the Asean Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection.

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TAGS: Asean Summit, Bangsamoro pact, Moro Insurgency, peace agreement, Philippine
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