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Aquino urges renewed peace talks

Aquino urges renewed peace talks

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MANILA, July 26 – Philippine President Benigno C. Aquino III today called on the two main rebel groups fighting the government to resume the peace talks immediately, saying the country “cannot grow without peace and order.” In his first ever State of the Nation address before a joint session of Congress since he assumed the presidency last June 30, Aquino expressed the hope that negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will start after the celebration of Ramadan, the greatest religious celebration in Islam.

Ramadan will start on August 11 and will end on September 9.

Actually, formal talks between the government and MILF resumed last December 8 in Kuala Lumpur after the collapsed of the negotiations in August 2008 following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which the Philippine Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.

But despite the collapse of the peace talks, backdoor negotiations continued until the talks reopened last December.

However, talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which collapsed in 2005 after the United States and European Union tagged the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed component, as a terror group, continued to be dormant to date despite efforts by the Philippine government to resume the talks.

The new government has formed a new peace panel to negotiate with the MILF. The panel is headed by Prof. Marvic Leonen, dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. The panel was formerly headed by Ambassador Rafael E. Seguis.

“We face two obstacles on our road to peace: the situation in Mindanao and the continued revolt of the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front),” Aquino said.

“Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian,” Aquino said.

To the CPP-NPA-NDF, President Aquino posed this question: “Are you prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism and finger-pointing?”

“If it is peace you truly desire, then we are ready for an immediate cease-fire. Let us go back to the table and begin talking again,” the President said.

“It is difficult to begin discussions in earnest if the smell of gun powder still hangs in the air. I call on everyone concerned not to waste a good opportunity to rally behind our common aspiration for peace.

“Our foundation for growth is peace. We will continue to be shackled by poverty if the crossfire persists.

“We must understand that now is a time for sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that will pave the way for a better future. With our freedom comes our responsibility to do good unto our fellows and to our country,” Aquino concluded.

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