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From Left: Datu Antonio Kinoc, Father Angel Calvo and Grace Rebollos holding the 15-point Mindanao People’s Peace Agenda

Peace groups present their Mindanao agenda

Manuel T. Cayon, Davao City

June 28 2010

Peace organizations frustrated by the ongoing conflict in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao have tabled their own proposals to help end the insurgency.

The proposals include the formation of a peace commission and the drafting of a national peace policy.

Mindanao peace organizations have listed 15 proposals under a so-called Mindanao People's Peace Agenda to achieve a lasting peace in the region, said Claretian Father Angel Calvo of Peace Advocates-Zamboanga.

"This is not meant to unilaterally solve the armed conflict in Mindanao. Like any other framework, it is designed as a guide for the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF] and all other participants in the peace process," Father Calvo said.

Included in the agenda is recognizing the right to self-determination "not only for Filipino Muslims, but also for the different tribal groups," said Father Calvo, whose other organization, the Mindanao Peace Weavers, drew up the agenda.

The groups also propose recognizing customary laws and indigenous governance, stopping the use of excessive military force, addressing land grab issues and establishing community mechanisms to settle land disputes, ensuring civilian protection, addressing policy issues regarding internal refugees and adapting a comprehensive national peace policy.

"We can't just leave peace discussions in Mindanao to the negotiating panels," Father Calvo said.

"It's time we had a commission not beholden to the current administration. We need a government body whose mandate doesn't only rest with the Executive but also requires the legislature to support whatever is set out in a national peace policy," he added.

Government peace negotiator Rafael Seguis lauded the agenda, saying he is "in total agreement with most of the recommendations."

Datu Antonio Kinoc, a MILF negotiator, called it "a good sign," adding that the items listed in the agenda "were ones that we have been negotiating for several years now".

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