Gov’t, MILF start ‘last round’ of peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur | Global News
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Gov’t, MILF start ‘last round’ of peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 10:20 PM January 22, 2014

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) began on Wednesday what could be the final round of negotiations between the two panels should they agree on the last annex that would make up the comprehensive peace agreement aimed at bringing an end to the decades-long war in Central Mindanao.

On the table of the 43rd exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is the normalization annex, the last of the four annexes that would comprise the Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MILF.

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The normalization annex deals with the overall security in the new Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where the Moro rebels are expected to lay down their arms.

The peace agreement with the MILF is one of the cornerstones of the Aquino administration, and the Moro rebels themselves have said they want a peace deal before President Benigno Aquino III completes his term in June 2016.

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“It is not farfetched that during this 5-day session, we will be able to settle all the remaining outstanding issues on the Bangsamoro Waters and Annex on Normalization that block our way to conclude the talks and eventually sign the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) very soon,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in his opening statement on Wednesday.

But Iqbal remained cautious. He said that even if a comprehensive peace agreement was signed, it would be the “Exit Agreement that will formally terminate this negotiation.”

“(It) will only happen if the two parties satisfactorily complied with their part of the deal; in addition, not until after the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) and the two parties and the Malaysian facilitator finally certify that both parties have fully complied with their obligations in the negotiation,” Iqbal said.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer took note of the “telltale signs” of the anticipation that this would be the last round of exploratory talks—from the presence of the media, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, members from the civil society, as well as senators and congressmen.

The normalization annex includes the following components: socio-economic; transitional justice and reconciliation; and security, according to Ferrer said.

The security aspect, she said, would involve the disbandment of private armed groups, the decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons, and the redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from or within the Bangsamoro as the security situation improves.

“Foremost expectation is the end to the armed conflicts in Muslim Mindanao, and a halt to the recurrence of violence involving the various armed groups,” she said, adding that this has also been the expectation of areas surrounding the Bangsamoro such as Zamboanga City and the rest of the Zamboanga peninsula, North Cotabato, and Lanao del Norte.

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“We take special note of Zamboanga City, which has yet to fully recover from the trauma resulting from the siege launched by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.  In this regard, we ask the MILF leadership to ensure that their ranks refrain from any provocative acts that generate distrust among the populace,” Ferrer said.

Iqbal said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) would finalize the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by April and submit it to the Office of the President (OP) in May.

The OP would transmit it to Congress as an urgent bill, Iqbal said.

“I trust that the collective wisdom of Congress will ensure the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law very smoothly,” Iqbal said.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro basic law, Bangsamoro Waters and Annex on Normalization, Features, Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, normalization Annex, Peace negotiations, Peace Process, Peace talks, Philippine government
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