Thursday, October 30, 2008

November 14, 2007

Jeddah talks on Mindanao peace end on high note
11/14/2007 05:48 PM

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Negotiators in the tripartite talks on Mindanao peace held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from Nov 10 - 12 ended the meeting with high hopes in achieving their goals.The tripartite meeting between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) agreed on the mechanics of implementing the 1996 peace agreement.

At the close of the meeting, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC secretary general, raised expectation that the success of the meeting would build on the triumphs of previous peace endeavors.Misuari releaseIhsanoglu also expected that MNLF chair Nur Misuari would be able to join the next meeting to benefit from his contributions in the recent Jeddah talks.

He reminded the GRP camp of the OIC’s appeal “to expedite the legal processes for the early release of Misuari to enable him to participate in the talks and to continue his constructive role in leading the Bangsamoro people."Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Makati Regional Trial Court, Branch 59, allowed Misuari to attend the meeting in Jeddah on condition that he would go back to his detention in a house in Quezon City by November 13.

The head of the MNLF delegation Randolph Parcassio said in an interview that "the meeting is one giant step towards resolving the conflicting issues in the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the GRP."He cited the creation of five working groups, which will discuss the mechanics of the implementation of the peace agreement, as major breakthrough in the recent talks.

The groups would report on the result of their discussions in the next tripartite talks. Parcassio said his group was happy that the GRP panel did not insist on the use of Republic Act 9054, the law that expanded the organic component of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as term of reference for the negotiations.

MNLF delegates objected to the use of RA 9054 and wanted that the 1996 peace agreement be the basis for the talks.The 1996 agreement affirmed the legitimacy of the Bangsamoro cause, even as it maintained the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippine republic.

The Agreement promised to expand both the powers and the territory of the ARMM. Undersecretary Nabil Tan, deputy presidential adviser on the peace process, assured negotiators of the GRP’s commitment to the 1996 agreement."And now we have achieved the purpose of this meeting which is preparatory to the tripartite. Alhamdulilah everybody adopted a very cooperative spirit and hopefully Inshaallah we can move this process forward, that has been delayed due to circumstances beyond our control," Tan was quoted as saying.

However, in a speech delivered by a representative, Misuari said that the MNLF would be forced to press their original demands for self-determination, decolonization, and independence of the Bangsamoro Homeland if the [rival] Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wrapped up a formal peace deal with the GRP.He also asked the OIC and its 57 member states to search their conscience and be guided by their own charter to help the Bangsamoro people as they struggle for their human and political rights.

He reminded the OIC of its commitment in the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 to assist the MNLF in demanding for the independence of the Bangsamoro people’s homeland in Mindanao and Sulu and their former historic islands or territories if the GRP failed its commitments.

The OIC convened the Jeddah meeting in order to preserve the gains achieved through the 1996 Peace Agreement.In his opening remarks, Ihsanoglu said that the 1996 peace agreement ended long years of bloodshed and turmoil and opened a road that was full of hopes and great expectations.

However, obstacles impeded its full implementation.Key persons The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Rezlan I. Jenie, deputy minister for multilateral affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia and chair of the OIC peace committee for the Southern Philippines. It was attended by Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Somalia and the new members from Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. The delegation of the GRP was headed by Tan.The delegation of the MNLF was headed by MNLF legal adviser, Randolph Parcasio.

ConcernsThe meeting adopted a single agenda, which was to review the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and MNLF - the progress made and obstacles encountered in the implementation.Negotiators agreed to establish five working groups to focus on the following topics: Shari'ah and judiciary; special regional security force and the unified command for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; natural resources and economic development issues; political system; and education.

The working groups have the mandate to review implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement in their respective assigned topics and provide recommendations to move the implementation of the peace agreement forward. Each working group will be composed of three experts from both the GRP and the MNLF panels.

The meetings of the working group will be attended by representatives from the members of the OIC peace committee on the southern Philippines as facilitators.Each joint working group is expected to submit its first progress reports to the tripartite panel through the OIC by January 10, 2008. The report will be considered at the next tripartite meeting to be convened on January 14, 2008 in a place to be decided later. - Ronald Concha, GMANews.TV

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