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Moro rebels take ‘a step towards peace’

Talks with government should tackle historical injustices, says Muslim

Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen
  • Mach Alberto Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Philippines
  • February 11, 2011
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The resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur is another step towards peace, said Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator.

“While the exact time to destination cannot be determined right now, every step we take now is bringing us closer to it,” Iqbal said in his opening statement during two days of formal exploratory talks.

“We come to work with you to bring peace, not just aspire for it,” said chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen, who admitted the need to address historical injustices done to Muslims in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. These historical injustices were detailed in a draft document presented by MILF during the two-day formal exploratory talks.

The MILF claimed that Muslims are being treated as “mere second class citizens without any role in national decision-making” by “Filipinos” who “continue to be rulers and sole decision-makers.” The “one-sidedness or imbalance of totality of relationship between Filipinos and Moros” will be corrected.”

According to MILF, the draft agreement offers a “win-win formula” for the southern Philippines. “The dividends of peace – and the lack of war itself – will reach every home not only in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, but Mindanao as whole and the Philippines in general.”

Refugees from Mindanao will no longer go to Sabah and therefore “cease to be a recurring problem to the government of Malaysia.”

In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the talks, the two sides agreed to meet again on March 29.

Malaysia, which has brokered the negotiations since 1997, hosted the talks, the first in two years, after negotiations collapsed in 2008 following the Philippine Supreme Court’s rejection of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Related reports
Peace talks must ‘plug the gaps’
Talks with Philippine Muslim rebels optimistic
Filipino opinion over peace talks divided

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