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12 Oct, 2012

Philippines Leader Hails Tourism Benefits of Historic Peace Deal With Muslims

When Philippines President Benigno Aquino III announced the historic peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on October 7, he specifically cited the benefits to tourism at the same level as the benefits to local people.

“This Agreement allows us to dream,” he said. “The time is near when any foreigner visiting the Philippines will surely have the provinces of Bangsamoro in his itinerary. The time is near when a tourist wanting to go to Pagudpud can opt to go to Sulu. Children going to school whether in Quezon City or Lamitan will have the same quality education; hospitals whether in Pasig or Patikul can offer the same quality health care; businesses will flourish, whether one chooses to invest in Marikina or Marawi.”

These are, indeed, the fruits of peace. In a world and region that appear to be wracked by conflicts and instability, the peace agreement to be signed on October 15 between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a clear beacon of hope for others to follow suit in many parts of Asia and beyond. If it holds and delivers the results, it will build a stronger ASEAN and should pave the way for other peace agreements to follow through.

The timing is not without merit. It came just a few days after the conclusion of a UN General Assembly debate on the theme “Adjustment Or Settlement Of International Disputes Or Situations By Peaceful Means.” It comes in the same month that the world celebrates Oct 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, as the Global Day of Non-Violence and just a few days before the announcement of the Nobel Peace prize. It should send a clear message to peacemakers around the globe as they struggle with the issues of peace, conflict and sovereignty in many other places where history, culture, ethnicity, religion and language can be forces of good when embraced, but turn lethal when suppressed.

The agreement has been lauded by all sides, politicians, world leaders and the business community.

In a landmark speech on October 7, President Aquino was very clear about his objectives. As the son of the assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino and his widow Corazon, herself a former President, Benigno Aquino III indicated congnizance of his place in history and the limited time frame he has (until his term expires in June 2016) to end of his country’s longest running conflicts. He spoke passionately about what it takes to build peace, the need to learn the mistakes of the past, show sincerity, focus on shared values and be honest and transparent.  Citing “trust” six times in his speech, he minced no words in identifying why many past attempts to forge a lasting peace had failed.

“Some gained power, but instead of raising the quality of life in the region, this begot a structure that tightened the shackles of poverty. The command vote phenomenon arose and strengthened a feudal structure; ghost roads, ghost bridges, ghost schools, ghost teachers, ghost students became prevalent as the powerful few fattened their purses. A culture of impunity and injustice set in; the people lost their trust in the system, with some attempting to secede….Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform.”

Mr. Aquino said that the Framework Agreement “paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao”, the southern island of the Philippines which will in future be renamed Bangsamoro. The former secessionists have dropped their demand for a separate state. Said the President, “This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations, and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens….This agreement will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal.”

He hailed the MILF leaders and the members of the negotiating panel who “recognized our administration’s sincerity, and our shared principles and aspirations. Together, we traversed the distance between us until we finally met in a handshake and an embrace as fellow citizens of the Philippines.” Mr. Aquino added, “This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved. It is about acknowledging that trust has to be earned– it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, good will, and hard work.” Click here to read full text of President Aquino’s speech.

Two days after the announcing the agreement, President Aquino followed it up with another cultural outreach announcement that Friday, 26 october 2012, would be marked as regular holiday throughout the Philippines, in observance of the Islamic end of the Hajj pilgrimage known as the Eidul Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), the second most important holiday in the Muslim calendar.

Muslim leaders have hailed the agreement. Click here to read the full text of the agreement.

In an editorial on the MILF website luwaran.com said that “the aim of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation, as set as early as 1997, has been to solve the Moro Problem, later recoined, nay corrected, as the Moro Question. The truth is that the Moros are not the problem; they are the ones under siege in their homeland. The problem is not administrative, as approached by the Americans during their occupation of Mindanao. It is political, because it is sovereignty-based. It is anchored on the collective right of people to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. In its historical antecedent, the Moros had been the lord of Mindanao even before Spain set its foot in the Philippines in 1521.”

According to the editorial, “Of course, it is not a perfect agreement, especially for those who wish for a better one, as well as for the cynics and those who criticize for the sake of criticizing. But for those who have been in the negotiation since 1997, especially negotiators of the MILF, the agreement is the best. There could never be another like it, because so much “blood, sweat, and tears” had been invested in it and there would have been no time in the past and perhaps in the future that such Agreement will ever be possible. The two parties have given their best — and worst? — and for them this is the best compromise. Pushing them for more concessions is like pushing them to go to war.”

It added, “A new engagement between the MILF and the GPH will emerge. If in the past, their relationship had been characterized by mistrust, animosity, and confrontation, this time it will gradually undergo dramatic changes for a more collaborative approach. The progress might not be too fast because it is tied up with how they comply with the provisions of their Agreement and how they settle the remaining issues which will be contained in annexes. What is more important, however, is that negotiation does not end here; it will continue even after the full implementation of this Agreement and full normalization in Mindanao is attained. This is the essence and beauty of an asymmetrical relationship between the mother state and the sub-entity; it is dynamic and living.”

Both sides hailed the role of the Malaysians in facilitating the agreement, especially Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and the Malaysian negotiations facilitator, Tengku Dato Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed. Malaysian business interests are also following suit. According to a Reuters report dated Oct 9, Malaysia’s Felda Global Ventures, the world’s largest crude palm oil producer, is the first foreign investor to evince interest in the Southern Philippines. Mindanao has the most suitable land in the Philippines for oil palms, Sabri Ahmad, chief executive of cash-rich Felda Global told Reuters in an interview.

“There is ample area for oil palms to meet strong local demand,” he added. Despite the natural resources, the Philippines imports more than 500,000 metric tons of crude palm oil a year to meet strong local demand for the product, used mostly for cooking. He told Reuters plantation companies would need to invest in at least 10,000 hectares to gain economies of scale. Mindanao has about one million hectares of grasslands, that can be turned into oil palm estates, the Philippines Palm Oil Development Council (PPDCI) has estimated. The southern Philippines could become the next destination for land-hungry companies like Malaysia’s Sime Darby and Singapore listed Wilmar which have struggled with environmental restrictions in top palm oil producer Indonesia and harsh weather conditions in Africa, Reuters said.

The Philippines News Agency also reported on Oct. 9 that Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest business organization, sees the entry of more foreign investors into the Philippines following the success of Mindanao peace deal. It quoted PCCI president Miguel Varela as saying in an interview, “They (investors) are now very optimistic, they are very excited. Not only because we have assurance of good governance and level playing field but at the same time, we are now slowly achieving peace in Mindanao. This spells political stability.”  He said Russian, Omani, Sri Lankan and Turkish companies had already expressed keen interest in investing in the Philippines. “We also hope that that policy on transparency, accountability and good governance will continue. And that the economic transformation will also continue,” he said.

Nobody is under any illusions that the devil is in the detail. The annexes to the agreement containing the fine print are still to be negotiated. And there are many hardliners on both sides who see their power-base eroding. However, the Agreement has provided roadmap for the way forward. With President Aquino having cited travel & tourism as a major beneficiary, the industry has a major stake in taking it forward. Interestingly, however, travel & tourism leaders missed the opportunity entirely; not a single global travel & tourism organisation issued a statement of support.

Further reading:

Joint Communiqué of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the 32nd Formal Exploratory Talks

[Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 7, 2012]

The 32nd round of Exploratory Talks between the Negotiating Panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held on October 2-7, 2012 in Kuala Lumpur successfully ended today under the facilitation of the Government of Malaysia.

In this round of negotiations, both Parties achieved an unprecedented milestone with the forging of the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

The Framework Agreement serves as the overarching architecture for the Mindanao peace process and provides the foundation for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao. It defines the powers and structures of the new Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). It sets the principles, processes and mechanisms that will shape the new relations between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro.

The details of the remaining issues will be spelled out in annexes that will form part of the Agreement. The Parties committed to continue discussions until the details are settled.

The Parties expressed their appreciation to His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for his commitment to a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, to His Excellency Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his continued support in the facilitation of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks, and to the members of the MILF Central Committee headed by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for their continued commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Bangsamoro Question.

The Parties also extend their gratitude to the members of the International Contact Group (ICG), namely Japan, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Turkey, the United Kingdom, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah, and The Asia Foundation.

Done this 7th day of October 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

FOR THE GPH:(Sgd.) Marvic M.V.F. Leonen

GPH Panel Chairman       FOR THE MILF:(Sgd.) Mohagher Iqbal

MILF Panel Chairman


(Sgd.) Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed

Malaysian Facilitator

UN chief welcomes peace deal in Philippines

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 9 (PNA/Xinhua) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday welcomed the announcement of a peace agreement to end decades of fighting between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the island of Mindanao in the country’s south.

“The United Nations stands ready to provide assistance to the parties, as needed, in implementing the Framework Peace Agreement,” Ban said in a statement issued here by his spokesperson.

Ban expressed his heartfelt wishes for peace and prosperity to the government and the people of the Philippines, in particular the people of Bangsamoro, to be created in Mindanao as a new autonomous political entity in the country, said the statement.

The UN chief hailed the accord as a “landmark achievement”, commending Philippine President Benigno Aquino III for his “vision and courage” as well as the commitment of the MILF leadership, in reaching the agreement. Ban also expressed his gratitude to all national and international actors, particularly the government of Malaysia, for their contributions to the success of the peace negotiations.

The 11,000-strong MILF had been waging a battle in southern Philippines since 1969 in one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, and continuing armed hostilities have claimed at least 120,000 lives. (PNA/Xinhua)


PCCI : Peace pact to lure more foreign investments

By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA, Oct. 9 (PNA) — Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s largest business organization, sees the entry of more foreign investors into the Philippines following the success of Mindanao peace deal which, it believes, can bring political stability.

“They (investors) are now very optimistic, they are very excited. Not only because we have assurance of good governance and level playing field but at the same time, we are now slowly achieving peace in Mindanao. This spells political stability,” PCCI president Miguel Varela said in an interview on the sidelines of the opening of the Philippine Business Conference (PBC) at the Manila Hotel Tuesday.

Varela said investors were appreciative about the peace deal reached between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. “And probably they will decide to come in and invest in the country especially in Mindanao,” he said.

Varela said Russian, Omani, Sri Lankan and Turkish companies had already expressed keen interest in investing in the Philippines. “They are now represented in this conference. They are very excited about the developments in the country,” he said.

To attract more foreign investments, Varela said the business group would push key initiatives that aim to lower the cost of doing business and make the Philippines competitive. The PCCI chief said they would submit to President Benigno Aquino III their resolutions outlining the output of the three-day conference.

“We also hope that that policy on transparency, accountability and good governance will continue. And that the economic transformation will also continue,” he said. (PNA)


Indonesia hails peace deal between PHL gov’t, MILF

JAKARTA, Oct. 9 (PNA/Xinhua) — The Indonesian government praised the initial peace deal between the government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a statement from the Indonesian foreign ministry said Tuesday. “It indicates the seriousness of the government of the Philippine in building peace in Southern Philippine,” the statement said.

The Indonesian government has been ready to render any assistance needed and provide support, including sharing experience in success of building peace in Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra island, it said. “The initial peace deal is expected to permanently terminate the conflict between the MILF and the government of the Philippine that has left huge fatality and material losses since the last four decades,” said the statement.

The Indonesian government has taken part in the peace process in the Southern Philippines since 20 years ago, such as sending conflict monitoring team to the region. (PNA/Xinhua)

Business Lauds ‘Joint Framework Accord’

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

MANILA, Philippines October 9, 2012, Manila Bulletin — The business community yesterday welcomed the joint framework agreement reached by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) saying this could be a start to forging lasting peace in Mindanao even as they wished for a clearer understanding of the agreement.

Edgardo B. Lacson, President of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), said that it has been the aspiration of all Filipinos to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.  “If this breakthrough temporarily silenced the guns in Mindanao, it is considered a milestone after decades of armed conflict,” Lacson said.

Lacson, however, said that until the full details of the agreement like the disarmament, political powers, governance structure, referendum of the people in ARMM and additional territories, are publicly disclosed it will be difficult to comment intelligently on this preliminary peace agreement.

“It is hoped that the lost commands, Abu Sayyaf, and other armed groups will respect the pact and holster their guns for the moment to give peace a chance. Economic development should immediately follow to sustain this peace initiative,” Lacson said.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, said the framework agreement is a boon to tourism and investments in Mindanao especially for agriculture processing and manufacturing.  Having a signed agreement will send positive signal not only for Mindanao but for the entire Philippines, Ortiz-Luis said. Donald Dee, ECOP vice-president, said the framework agreement is a good start.


Malaysian Firm Eyes PH After Peace Deal

October 9, 2012, KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s Felda Global Ventures, the world’s largest crude palm oil producer, is the first foreign investor to evince interest in the southern Philippines after Manila agreed on a historic peace deal with Muslim rebels, potentially opening up tracts of farm land.

The Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels agreed Sunday on a pact to end 40 years of conflict in the impoverished southern region of Mindanao. Officials have cautioned that the deal is only a first step as the two sides need to thrash out details on the scope and powers of a new autonomous region.

Conflict-wracked Mindanao has the most suitable land in the Philippines for oil palms, Sabri Ahmad, chief executive of cash-rich Felda Global told Reuters in an interview.

“We will go there for oil palms,” he said in the Malaysian capital late on Monday. “There is ample area for oil palms to meet strong local demand,” he added.

Felda Global had a $3.1 billion listing earlier this year, at the time the largest in the world after Facebook’s IPO, and had said it planned to use the funds to expand in Southeast Asia and Africa.

The fighting in Mindanao has deterred any widespread foreign investment in the agriculture and mineral-rich region.

Despite the natural resources, the Philippines imports more than 500,000 metric tons of crude palm oil a year to meet strong local demand for the product, used mostly for cooking.

While Sabri did not give an estimate for how many hectares Felda Global was looking to develop, he said plantation companies would need to invest in at least 10,000 hectares to gain economies of scale.

“We would have to look at building up the infrastructure. It will have to be a holistic approach,” he said.

Mindanao has about one million hectares of grasslands, equivalent to the size of Puerto Rico that can be turned into oil palm estates, the Philippines Palm Oil Development Council (PPDCI) has estimated.

The southern Philippines could become the next destination for land-hungry companies like Malaysia’s Sime Darby and Singapore listed Wilmar which have struggled with environmental restrictions in top palm oil producer Indonesia and harsh weather conditions in Africa.

The rush for land comes as benchmark palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange have nearly doubled over a decade, driven by demand for its products ranging from cooking oil and biofuel to cosmetics.

Felda Global could bring to the Philippines the farmer’s cooperative model developed by its parent – the Malaysian government’s Federal Land Development Authority, said Sabri.

With Felda Global buying up palm fruits from the farmers and other independent farmers to process, it has become the world’s largest crude palm oil producer with an annual output of around 3.3 million metric tons.

Aquino eyes IT-BPO firms to rise in Bangsamoro

By Lilybeth Ison

MANILA, Oct. 10 (PNA) — With the forging of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), President Benigno Aquino III envisions that business processing and outsourcing (BPO) companies will see the potential aspect of investing in the Bangsamoro (formerly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

In his speech during the 4th International Outsourcing Summit Tuesday evening held at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel, President Aquino said the IT-BPO sector is an all-important tool as catalysts for extending growth especially in the countryside.

“We are fully committed to meeting these projections. We see your sector as an all-important driver of inclusive growth — as catalysts for extending prosperity outside the traditional hubs of commerce and industry in our country,” he said.

Right now, an increasing number of IT-BPO companies are investing in the so-called “Next Wave Cities,” amongst them Santa Rosa in Laguna, Lipa in Batangas, and Dumaguete.

The President said his administration is “also hard at work to make even more places in the Philippines ripe for investment.”

And with the recently concluded framework agreement with the MILF, “we are very hopeful that there will come a day, and the not too distant future, when we see a number of IT-BPO companies operating in the Bangsamoro,” he noted.

President Aquino said the jobs created in these areas will take on a multiplier effect that goes a long way in developing the countryside.

“Every person you hire buys products from convenience stores; becomes regular customers of coffee shops; pays their rent; rides public transportation. In short, their employment empowers them as consumers, and the money they spend positively affects several other industries, which can then hire even more people,” he said.

“This is what we like to refer to as a virtuous cycle of inclusive growth, which we are enjoying due, in part, and definitely, to your help,” he added.

President Aquino challenged the IT-BPO sector to make the US$ 25 billion in revenue and employing around 1.3 million Filipinos by 2016, from a US$ 11 billion with 113,000 new jobs created in 2011. “We are fully committed to meeting these projections; God-willing, we might even surpass them,” he said.

That is why, the President said, his administration has allotted P500 million for the “Industry-based Training for Work Scholarship Program” (I-TWSP) in 2011 being implemented by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“We have been investing on our people to arm them with the skills they need not only to gain entry into your industry, but also to flourish and rise up the ranks as long-term professionals,” he said.

As of August this year, President Aquino said, more than 26,500 Filipinos have graduated from the program, of which 11,600 of them have already been hired. “I remain thankful for your commitment to hire those who graduate from the I-TWSP,” he said.

The President said the government is also looking at other avenues where those who aspire to enter industry can be trained.

He cited the Commission on Higher Education where the government has been able to implement proposal of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) of making available a 21-unit BPO specialization track to I.T. students.

“Already, schools like the University of Makati and Asia Pacific College are offering the track, and we feel good about its prospects for preparing students to join your companies,” he said.

Aside from ensuring that the labor force provides the industry with a steady stream of competent, highly-trainable graduates, President Aquino said his administration is also working with other sectors to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to optimize your operations.

“The level playing field brought about by reform has created a competitive environment for the telecommunications industry, and its major players have committed to expanding their networks with improved broadband capacity and next generation systems,” he said.

“As you can see, your assistance in ensuring that no Filipino is left behind on the straight path to equitable progress, is being reciprocated with assistance from the government. We are already seeing it now — from aeronautics, to animation, to healthcare, to engineering design, to video game programming, the Filipino has proven that he can compete with the best. The world has begun to see this, and I invite your companies to ride the wave of optimism and bet even more on the skill of the Filipino,” he added. (PNA)


Al Haj Murad to attend signing of Framework Agreement on Oct. 15

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Oct. 10 (PNA) — Malacanang on Wednesday confirmed that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim will be stepping for the first time in Malacanang, which is considered the symbolic power of the Executive branch of the government, on Oct. 15 to witness the signing of the Framework Agreement with the rebel group.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a press briefing, said that aside from Al Haj Murad, the MILF negotiating peace panel, led by its chief, Mohaguer Iqbal will also attend the historic event and some members of the MILF contingent.

“We have not yet had a confirmed number of participants on their side. But we can confirm that Chairman Al Haj Murad will be here in Malacanang on Monday,” he said.

Lacierda also confirmed that the Prime Minister of Malaysia will also arrive to witness the signing of the Framework Agreement.

“We will (also) have some bilateral talks prior to the signing,” he noted. “We are preparing the list right now as we speak. All those who have in one way or another contributed to the successful conclusion of the Framework Agreement will be invited,” he added.

With regards to the issue if the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was consulted in the drafting of the Framework Agreement, Lacierda said that according to government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen, the MILF and the MNLF have a “solidarity agreement” and that the MNLF, which is considered a political group, was consulted.

“They (MNLF) will also have a representation in the development of the (Bangsamoro ) Basic Law,” he said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles earlier said the MNLF was consulted directly and through Indonesia, who was the facilitator.

“We have sent the message that we intend the presence of making the new law inclusive; that they will have representation in the Transition Commission — an intent that we have communicated to MILF as well,” she said.

Deles also said that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has already convened the MNLF and MILF leaders to push for unity and coordination.

“Our policy from the start has been to push for convergence between the two peace tables. The OIC Peace Commission for Southern Philippines (PCSP) supports this. Significant elements of MNLF have welcomed this development,” she noted.

With regards to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Deles said they are working with MNLF communities, “which have clearly expressed their support for the peace process and have called for their leaders to unite.”

The Palace spokesman said the statements of Leonen and Deles goes to show that the MNLF “is not going to be marginalized in this.”

“The MNLF is also a stakeholder for the peace in Mindanao and therefore that was done. The MILF has a solidarity agreement. In what form? Maybe they can explain further. But as far as we know, the MNLF will also have an involvement in the peace in Mindanao,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday announced forging of a Framework Agreement, which is considered the roadmap that contains a set of principles and values that would guide the process for the final political settlement with the MILF.

The Framework Agreement contains the ideas of creating a “Transition Commission” that will craft the proposed “Bangsamoro Basic Law”, which will then be submitted to Congress for legislation.

“What we are signing on the 15th of October is the Framework Agreement not the annexes. The Framework Agreement has been published. The Agreement is like two camps, two groups, were able to secure the foundations of the house. By way of analogy, the Framework Agreement is the foundation for the house,” said Lacierda.

“How good and pleasant it is for brothers, Christians, Muslims, and Lumads to dwell together in peace. So that’s where we are right now. We have established the foundations of the house. The Framework Agreement will be in place, will be signed, they have agreed on it. Subsequent to that will be the discussions on the annexes,” he said. (PNA)


GPH-MILF preliminary peace accord seen to boost GPH-NDF talks — peace advocates, AFP exec

By Judy G. Quiros

DAVAO CITY, Oct. 8 (PNA) — Peace advocates and the military here look at the framework agreement for peace signed Saturday by the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as a major breakthrough that could help boost the stalled GPH-National Democratic Front (NDF) talks.

Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) executive director lawyer Mary Ann Arnado said what is good about the framework that establishes the Bangsamoro as the new political entity replacing ARMM is that: “It is very democratic and inclusive. It has a very strong peace constituency,” she said.

“All of these will have to go to a plebiscite. This will still be a long process,” she added.

Arnado said the accomplishment of the peacemakers (referring to the GPH and the MILF peace panels) in reaching at a framework of agreement could help its talks with the NDF.

The framework of agreement if signed by President Aquino will pave the way for his issuance of an Executive Order creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to be supported later on by Congressional Resolutions.

The transition commission then will craft the Bangsamoro basic laws between this year until 2015.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Col. Eduardo de Leon said the NDF should look at the GPH-MILF framework of agreement as a model in making peace talks proceed smoothly until a final and lasting peace agreement is reached.

“They (referring to NDF) should abandon their unreasonable demands and their desire for a military takeover, because that is not the way to lasting peace,” de Leon said.

Patricia Sarenas, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (MINCODE) chair said that with the GPH-MILF framework of agreement, the NDF could not say now that the government is not sincere in the peace talks neither they will say, they will wait and see. “It is very important for us to welcome the development,” she said.

“The framework of agreement is a piece that should be shared in the NDF talks, she said.

For her part, Bai Leng Mantawil of the Bangsamoro Women Group said the latest achievement of the GPH-MILF talks should be introduced to the NDF rather than provoking them to proceed with the peace talks.

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said the framework of agreement ‘is a clear commitment to peace both by the GPH and the MILF. “It is now a challenge to the rest of us to shoulder the load and support the greater task ahead,” he added.

The commitment to a common vision and purpose shown by both panels would remind the people of what is possible.

“Today, with a nod to the past, let us prepare ourselves to the grand task of building a just and sustainable peace for us all and for Mindanao,” Miclat said. (PNA)


Government hopes for MNLF-MILF alliance to fully attain peace in Mindanao – Leonen

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Oct. 9 (PNA) — In view of the forging of a framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippine government is hoping that the MILF will have an alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Dean Marvic Leonen, chairman of the government peace panel, said in an interview that the MNLF, which signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 with the Philippine government, is a political organization, while the MILF is a Moro rebel group.

“The MNLF is a political organization and it depends on the MILF if it wants to build alliances with the MNLF and we’re hoping that they do,” he said.

The MNLF headed by Nur Misuari earlier denounced the Framework Agreement, saying it is tantamount to abandoning the Tripoli Agreement and the Final Peace Agreement.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, in a press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday, said this is precisely why the government wanted the framework to be made public “so everybody can study it — not just certain groups.”

“We want it accessible online so that the public may read the draft framework agreement and then they can ask questions as they have been doing so particularly — and this is by no means a judgment on a particular platform that is being used,” she said.

Valte said both parties are now discussing the annexes and that whatever annexes are available will also be made public.

“There is a substantial amount of interest in the draft framework agreement and we have been monitoring reactions as well as questions online and I believe that Dean Marvic Leonen has been fielding these questions also,” she said.

Leonen, for his part, divulged there are ongoing talks between the MILF and some groups from the MNLF for possible alliance with the Bangsamoro.


Aquino: Just and lasting peace can be achieved if everybody participates in peace-building, dev’t

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Oct. 9 (PNA) — President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday a just and lasting peace can only be achieved when every sector takes part in the process of peace-building and development.

The President hailed the seven women peace advocates, including Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Chief Teresita “Ging” Deles, and one man who received a special N-PEACE Award for “Men who advocate for Equality.”

“I am deeply honored to be here today, as we recognize your achievements — achievements you have not claimed for yourself or for personal fame, but for the thousands you have aided,” the President said in his speech at the 2012 N-PEACE Awards at the New World Hotel in Makati City.

The President said: “In your own individual capacities, you have embodied the belief that a just and lasting peace can only be achieved when every sector takes part in the process of peace-building and development — when no one is left behind, when the voices of all are heard and valued, when men and women alike are empowered to take part in nation-building.”

Aquino said it is during the darkest days of history that true examples of strength and dedication emerge — sometimes from the most unlikely sources.

“They are the peacemakers: men and women who work for peace, knowing as they do that this is the foundation for inclusive growth, true justice, and the solidarity of peoples,” he said.

Aquino cited the resolve of his mother when his father, former Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., was jailed for almost eight years during the Marcos regime.

He said: “My mother stayed strong; she held our family together. And not once did I hear her speak of hatred or a desire for violence to put an end to the dictatorship.

“Not even when my father was murdered, shot while disembarking from an airplane, did I hear her speak of violence or vengeance.”

Aquino said he believes it was Cory Aquino’s life and the lives of other women peace advocates like Madam Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma “that we find the strongest arguments for why women must participate, and perhaps even lead efforts, in building peace.”

The two women and the seven N-PEACE awardees “have displayed an extraordinary strength in becoming catalysts to achieve and nurture peace. You have dedicated your lives to the pursuit of peace, equality, and development in your communities,” he noted.

Aquino also cited Deles, one of the awardees, when both of them were once part of a march organized by civil society, to protest graft and corruption in government leadership.

He added: “As I was walking behind her, I noticed that she was dragging her feet. I pointed this out, jokingly telling her that it seemed like the soles of her shoes were about to fall off.

“Ging admitted that they were, and that she was trying not to let others notice. We continued walking, and it was not long before the soles fell off completely, and Secretary Deles was marching in her bare feet, with only the tops of her rubber shoes intact.

“She could have stood aside, stopped marching, but she did not even complain or make a big deal out of it.

“And I am as certain of her dedication as I am of her discomfort now.

“Ging was never one to point towards her own sacrifices, knowing that so many others have done as much, and more in the name of the cause they believed in.”

The President said he shared this incident “because I have always believed that actions, and not words, show best the true character of any person, man or woman.”

The other awardees are — Radha Paudel (Nepal) and Mana Lou (Timor-Leste) who braved insurgencies and threats of violence to do their work;

Quhramaana Kakar (Afghanistan), Farkhunda Zahra Naderi (Afghanistan), Suraiya Kamaruzzaman (Indonesia), Rupika de Silva (Sri Lanka), Amina Azimi (Afghanistan), and Sadhu Ram Sapkota (Nepal), who have mobilized civil society and paved the way for increased economic, political, and social participation of women and the marginalized in different ways.

The President said: “We must admit — building peace is not easy. But each of our awardees has already shown us that even a single person can accomplish so much if it is borne out of a desire to help our fellow men.”

He said this year’s N-PEACE awardees “have already blazed a trail and shown us the course we must take, allowing us to innovate and find our own ways of becoming role models for peace.”

“I believe that we can do this on a regional, and even global scale — that we must all take part in building a virtuous cycle among ourselves, where we provide not only role models, but mentors and companions to each other, driven by similar experiences and similar goals,” the President said.

This way, he said, “even as we build peace in our own communities and nations, so too will we help to foster peace in the global community — a peace that will lead to the progress, prosperity, and stability of all nations and peoples.” (PNA)

Give framework peace agreement a chance – Enrile

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 9 (PNA) – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged the people on Tuesday to give the framework peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a chance to be studied before shooting it down.

”I think we have to give it a chance to be studied carefully before we start shooting it down,” Enrile said in a media interview.

The Senate president said he was briefed last Monday by Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles on the framework agreement which is designed to create a new entity called Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

”The way I understood it briefly when I was given a briefing yesterday (Monday) by Deles was that it is even a great improvement from the Tripoli Agreement and from the MOA,” Enrile said.

The veteran lawmaker is referring to the Tripoli Agreement signed between the government peace panel and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that led to the establishment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) forged in 2008.

Contrary to the claims by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that the framework agreement would require an amendment to the Constitution, Enrile said the Charter provides that an autonomy can be given to one region like the ARMM itself or the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Enrile said that even if the Bangsamoro entity would adopt parliamentary system, it would still be under the presidential form of government where a prime minister is called governor.

”Provinces now have also their legislative bodies in the form of the provincial board and Congress, I think, has the power to enact a law granting them this kind of system because they are going to enact mostly on the basis of adversarial and also the economic circumstances in their area,” Enrile explained.

Meanwhile, Senator Loren Legarda welcomed the draft framework agreement as the first of many steps toward the attainment of lasting peace in Mindanao and stressed that the agreement needs closer scrutiny and must undergo extensive consultations.

“While the important details of this Agreement have yet to be formulated, the opportunities for continuing dialogue and the prospects for peace should be welcomed by all Filipinos,” she said.

Like Enrile, Legarda said that Congress still needs to enact a law in order to give life to the new political entity envisioned by the framework agreement.

“I look forward to the inputs of the relevant bodies that will be constituted to formulate a draft that is representative of the sentiments and wishes of the people,” Legarda said.

Senators Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Pangilinan hailed the forging of the framework agreement, saying it would open door of big opportunities to make Mindanao as leading bread basket of the country. (PNA)