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    Posted June 9, 2014 by

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    Road to peace pact in Philippines

    THE chief peace negotiators of the Government of the ‎Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) brought over a hundred foreign and local participants of an international peace conference in Cotabato City, Southern Philippines, Saturday down the memory lane of significant experiences in their tireless search for peace that concluded with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Manila.
    The proposed Bangsamoro government will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.
    The Bangsamoro Basic Law, once approved by Congress and ratified by the constituents in the proposed territory, will legalize the creation of the Bangsamoro region that will bring shared prosperity and shared security not just in the Bangsamoro, but to Mindanao, the Philippines and its neighbors.
    GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer noted that the peace process between the GPH and MILF under the Aquino administration gained significant ground during the last three Ramadans, the fasting month of Islamic believers.
    The breakthrough in the GPH-MILF peace talks came after the meeting between President Benigno S. Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Narita, Japan, with the help of the Japanese government, she recalled.
    “That [historic] event [between the President and Murad] is now in the annals of the history of the peace negotiations on the Bangsamoro question,” Coronel-Ferrer said.
    The meeting in Japan between the two leaders was strongly criticized as “ill-advised," according to Coronel-Ferrer. But the truth is, it was the President himself who proposed it. He told the government peace panel "nahirapan na yata kayo to further the talks considering the 'heaven and earth' gap, to borrow the words of MILF [peace panel chair Mohager] Iqbal in describing the difference between the government and MILF positions.”
    In all, the peace negotiations between the GPH and MILF spanned 17 years, culminating with the signing of the CAB, their final peace agreement, on March 27, 2014.
    “Seventeen long years of hard and protracted peace process between the government and the MILF is by no means not a short engagement,” Iqbal said, noting that the MILF was fully aware that the process would also be hard.
    Iqbal said the CAB is inclusive to all, referring to the Moros, Christians, and Lumads, and “is not a prescription for the MILF, it is not for the MILF alone.”
    “The Bangsamoro is a model in itself…[Although we know] that there are still many challenges ahead,” Iqbal said.
    Coronel-Ferrer and Iqbal both spoke on the topic “Peace Process on the Bangsamoro: Significant Experiences” on the second and last day of the International Conference of Cotabato themed “Peace is Living Together: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation in Mindanao.” It was organized by the Archdiocese of Cotabato, the Community of Sant’ Egidio, and Muhammadiyah, with the support of the European Union, the Italian government, and Notre Dame University.

    Reverend Absalom Cerveza, spokesperson of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who was one of the reactors, said that founding chair Nur Misuari is finally extending his congratulations to the GPH and the MILF for successfully concluding their negotiations through the CAB.
    Misuari earlier reportedly opposed the CAB because of claims that it will abrogate the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the MNLF and the government, which has been consistently debunked by the GPH.
    “We congratulate the MILF for reaching this stage of the negotiations,” said Cerveza, stressing that he talked with Misuari before attending the conference and that he met with leaders of the MILF prior to his engagement in said event.
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