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Peace talks must 'plug the gaps'

Monitors say missing links key to ending Philippine insurgency

Murad Ebrahim (center), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front, is escorted by rebel fighters at a guerilla camp in Sultan Kudarat Murad Ebrahim (center), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is escorted by rebel fighters at a guerilla camp in Sultan Kudarat
  • Philippines
  • February 10, 2011
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Organizations monitoring the peace process between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have called on both sides to address gaps left in past negotiations to produce positive results.

“We genuinely believe the peace talks will finally bear fruit,” the International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao and the Mindanao Solidarity Network said in a statement.

We are “very firm” in our belief that the talks can only succeed “if they bear in mind the lessons of the past and seriously address the gaps” that led to the demise of the agreement on ancestral domains, the statement said.

The 13-year-old peace process between the government and the Moro rebels resumed in Kuala Lumpur this week after it stalled in August 2008 following a Philippine Supreme Court ruling declaring a deal on ancestral domains unconstitutional.

“The peace panels cannot simply resume negotiations and revert to the old way of doing things, so to speak,” the groups said, adding that the peace process is now at a “crucial stage.”

They provided four “immediate recommendations” that would address the gaps and bring “closure” to the conflict in the southern Philippines.

One is the “establishment of a clear-cut, sustained mechanism for continuing consultation... across all sectors, genders, tribes and regions,” they said.

They also recommended “a mechanism that will keep the public, especially grassroots communities, regularly informed on the status and progress of the negotiations.”

Both sides were also urged to address rido cases -- feuds characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and communities.

They also called for the appointment of a “full time chair” for the ceasefire committee and to provide “adequate logistical support” to the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

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