Informal peace talks continue
Knowing the dividends that peace brings to the country and its people, the panel shall remain focused in this direction,” Padilla said.
In a related development, the chairman of the government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is inviting his MILF counterpart to an exploratory meeting in Kuala Lumpur this month prior to the resumption of formal talks.
Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, a member of the government peace panel, who represented Dean Marvin Leonen, chief peace negotiator of the Philippines, at the weekly Communications and News Exchange Forum at the PIA Building in Quezon City, said that the government panel is awaiting the response of the MILF with Malaysia as host of the meeting.
At the same time, Ferrer said that the government panel considers the crafting of the terms of reference for the facilitator as crucial for the talks.
Ferrer said that the terms of reference will void future problems, allow more flexibility in the peace process and enable both parties to exercise more initiative and control.
She cited the successful meeting of the other government peace panel negotiating with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) in Hong Kong on December 1-2 that “illustrates how flexibility and initiative, along with sincere interest to resume the talks, can support the negotiation.”
Ferrer said the government panel is ready for the resumption of the talks, saying it “has done its homework and is very much prepared to address all these issues, especially the remaining substantive agenda relating to ancestral domain and governance.
She said “the panel has the full support of the President (Benigno C. Aquino III) and the Cabinet to undertake this task of cooperatively delivering peace in Mindanao with its negotiating partners, based on the principles of inclusivity, transparency, and justice to all.”
Last December 1, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent notes verbales to the embassies of Malaysia, Brunei and Japan requesting them to extend the tour of duty of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) for three months from the end of its current tour which ended on Dec. 10, 2010.
Ferrer said that positive response on this request have been indicated by Brunei and Japan, adding that “we foresee no problem with Libya and Malaysia” who are both IMT members.
The MILF has supported the government’s initiative on the grounds that the tour of duty of the Malaysian contingent ends one year after their deployment on Feb. 28, 2010.
“The continuing stay of the IMT up to the end of February or early March has virtually been in effect. Its stay beyond this can be further discussed in the forthcoming exploratory talks,” Ferrer said.