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Moro groups call for own rule

Mindanao people want peace for the region 'sooner rather than later'

Catholic bishops from Mindanao and MILF leaders chat during consultations done last month. (Photo courtesy Mindanao Peoples Caucus) Catholic bishops from Mindanao and MILF leaders chat during consultations done last month. (Photo courtesy Mindanao Peoples Caucus)
  • Romy Elusfa, Cotabato City
  • Philippines
  • April 28, 2011
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Moro groups on the southern island of Mindanao have urged the government to ensure a negotiated peace settlement with rebels and to create a Bangsamoro (Moro nation) sub-state.

Their call came during a “send-off” procession for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators, ahead of the reopening of peace talks in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

"No to endless negotiations," read banners and placards held up by spectators along the procession’s route.

Up to 10,000 people took part in the 500-vehicle procession, which started in Cotabato City and passed through the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato.

Participants also called on the government and the MILF to immediately sign a comprehensive agreement for peace in Mindanao.

Bobby Benito, executive director of the Bangsamoro Council for Just Peace, said the people's participation in the procession was "a manifestation of our agreement with the legitimate demands that the MILF has forwarded to the government."

Carlo Abdulmalik Cleofe, advocacy officer of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, said the procession "shows that the Bangsamoro people are really behind the negotiations and the MILF’s agenda."

In Davao City, peace activists set up a 200-meter "human chain for peace" not only to show support for the peace talks but also "to demand concrete results from the negotiations."

Government peace negotiators yesterday said they had no illusions that their own requirements for consultation will be easy.

"What we are trying to achieve... is a political settlement which should embody what we in government can deliver," said lawyer Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel.

He praised the MILF decision to conduct consultations with non-Moro groups. "We are here to negotiate ways to solve problems," Leonen said.

PM14003

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