MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal talks to the media (Photo by Hernan Melencio)
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) says it has high hopes of a peace deal being signed with the government before the term of President Benigno Aquino ends in 2016.
Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF peace negotiating team, told a press briefing in Manila on Friday that the rebels believe Aquino is sincere about achieving a lasting peace in Mindanao.
“The president is very powerful,” Iqbal said, adding that peace negotiators from both camps are “very creative” and are "thinking out of the box."
The “box” is the Philippine constitution which has been seen as a stumbling block in previous negotiations.
MILF and government negotiators reached a memorandum of understanding on ancestral domain in 2008 but it was rejected by the Supreme Court which ruled it unconstitutional.
“Both sides agree that the present situation is unacceptable and that a new autonomous political entity must be
created,” Iqbal said. The rebels also hailed the government move, creating the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) to train future Moro bureaucrats.
Government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen earlier said the BLMI “highlighted the transformative power of ideas that germinate in discussions among colleagues."
Leonen thanked the MILF “for giving birth" to an institution that will host and shape future leaders.
The MILF team, however, reiterated their demand for a “Moro state” which would ultimately answer to the Philippine government but would have a wider degree of autonomy.
Under their proposed system, they said Mindanao would be comparable to China’s special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau in that the government and the MILF will share power and wealth.
All that is left now is for “the contracting parties to implement the agreement,” Iqbal said.
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