Peace talks enter 'historic' phase
MANILA, July 20 -– The ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have made progress, moving closer towards signing a peace accord even as the MILF chief negotiator said the final discussions on details are always difficult because “the devils are waiting in ambush.”
“We are aware that we are now approaching the cusp of history,” said Dean Marvic Leonen, the government’s chief negotiator, in his closing statement at the 29th exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday.
“For a centuries-old conflict (since the Spanish occupation) and years of negotiations, we definitely will face the hardest questions and confront our principals with the hardest decisions yet ever to be made in these negotiations,” said Leonen who earlier stated that the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF “are at the door of an agreement” to end the Mindanao conflict for good.
He said the negotiations have accomplished “something which the GPH and the MILF have never achieved before in these talks,” adding that “these agreements may be in principle, some in detail.”
However, he was quick to add that the government remains guardedly optimistic.
“For the GPH, there are still many issues to be resolved, including the mechanisms that will ensure the delivery of all these commitments made through broad acceptance by all our critical sectors,” Leonen said.
Leonen said the government looks forward to the day when both sides are “able to sign the first of a series of agreements.”
“The GPH believes that we are at the door of something new, and that something new would be to sign an agreement. And then to go on to the next phase of our relationship – to actually implement and be able to achieve the just and lasting peace that our people so richly deserve,” he added.
The panel chair likewise stressed that the future of communities affected by conflict “depends a lot on the words that we craft, the goodwill that we have won, the patience that we can muster.”
“We are confident that even our working relationship that we have seen so far, that we will be true to ourselves and our principles, as well as the beliefs of our principals. That we can see a way forward,” he said.