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Hopes high for success of peace negotiations

Philippine troops pray that talks may protect people from rebel attacks

Hopes high for success of peace negotiations
A MILF fighter stands guard outside the prayer area as Muslims pray at an MILF base in Maguindanao (File photo)
The Philippine military is praying for the success of peace negotiations with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines next month.

"We pin our hopes to the success of the peace negotiations between our government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," said Major General Anthony Alcantara, commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Maguindanao province.

He said his troops "are really expecting that the conflict is resolved soonest" and they are "holding peace on the ground." The general said the peace process should be given a chance.

"We uphold the primacy of the peace process, but we need to work more for peace especially with our Muslim brothers," Alcantara said. He said rebel forces have been "cooperating" with the military in going after the suspects in the 2009 massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao.

Captain Theodore Soriano, camp commander of the 29th Infantry Battalion, said soldiers are "keeping the faith" that peace will soon reign in the southern Philippines.

"It has been very difficult not to engage in war," he said, adding that the military is there "to protect the people" from rebel attacks.

"As soldiers we respect the chain of command but as Christians we believe that peace is attainable with the Muslims in Maguindanao," Soriano said.

An MILF peace negotiator, however, warned this week that some of their members have become pessimistic about the possibility of forging peace with the government.

"They noticed that the talks were not moving forward as expected," said rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal. He said the sentiment surfaced during the start of consultations on the peace process on Tuesday.

"But we won’t allow that to persist," he assured, adding that MILF leaders are trying to convince its members that the "best option" to resolve the conflict in Mindanao is a "negotiated political settlement."

Related reports
Catholics hopeful over Muslim peace deal
Peace group calls to restart Moro talks

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