Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:00
The Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen said over the weekend that the document Decision Points on Principles it signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not the final peace agreement but to make public the direction and substance of the peace negotiations.
“The government wants to know the viewpoints of the public on the peace process,” Leonen said, adding that the government will conduct dialogues and consultations with affected sectors in Mindanao.
He said that making the document open to the public by laying down commonalities in the proposals of both parties serves to “engage the public to learn and understand” the status and projection of the peace process.
The GPH and the MILF peace panels signed the document at the 27th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur on April 24.
The Decision Points on Principles contains a list of initial agreements that will serve as a guide in the discussions on the substantive agenda of the negotiations.
Leonen reiterated that the signed document is not yet the final peace pact.
“It should be read as a memorandum for the parties of the general directions of the substantive negotiations to navigate the details and context in crafting a comprehensive peace agreement,” Leonen added.
Among the points laid out in the document are the creation of a new autonomous political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), strengthening of the Shariah courts, assertion of the people’s basic rights, as well as power and wealth sharing.
Leonen said that the GPH panel is set to undertake more consultations with the people to generate inputs on how to move the peace process forward which has been off and on the past 15 years and interrupted by heavy fighting between government forces and MILF rebels in 2000 and 2008.
“Given the breadth of the constituencies involved which is national in scope, all we can do is make the best use of our time and resources not only to prepare for the negotiations, but also to conduct consultations," he said.
"At the end of the day, we are directed by the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) who, in turn, is accountable to the people. We in the peace panel take care that our positions are always just and legitimate,” he added.
To date, the GPH has already conducted 66 consultations with “local officials, including mayors, governors within and around the ARMM, some members of House of Representatives, some members of the Senate, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, various civil society groups, and members of the media.”
*Pressure from the ground
When asked if he thinks the crucial time to forge the peace agreement with the MILF is before the 2013 elections, Leonen said that he hopes the signing will happen as soon as possible because addressing the situation of areas in Mindanao is serious, urgent and important.
“It takes time, but we are considering the political realities. We are pressured because of the condition in the area; many people have died (because of the armed conflict),” he said.
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