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Government and Moro peace negotiators set to discuss ‘crucial issues’

Negotiators hope to break deadlock on leadership of Bangsamoro Authority

Gulf News

Manila: The Philippines Government lead negotiator in talks with Moro rebels, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said they expect the continuation of the talks on Monday to be “crucial” as it will tackle issues vital for the establishment of a self-sustaining Bangsamoro.

According to Coronel-Ferrer, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace delegation is set to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday for the 35th round of Formal Exploratory Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

She described the next round of talks as “crucial” as they intend to settle most of the remaining issues in the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalisation and transitional arrangements and modalities. The annexes, together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, make up the comprehensive agreement President Benigno Aquino signed with the MILF in October 2012.

She said negotiators are expected to break the deadlock on who will hold the helm of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, a body that will preside over the transfer of administration of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro.

The MILF had wanted the one head of the transitional body to come from it ranks while the government believes otherwise.

“Much work is still needed to find a middle ground on certain core issues,” Coronel-Ferrer emphasised in a statement.

She said nevertheless, that both parties are open to consider options on the remaining difficulties, across the annexes, including the “technical impasse” pertaining to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

“Both parties are bringing technical experts to provide advice on matters relating to natural resources and transportation. This is to ensure that we will make informed decisions on these issues,”

Coronel-Ferrer said.

The areas under the proposed Bangsamoro — which is mainly located in Central Mindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, are rich in natural and mineral resources and the MILF had said before that inequitable exploitation of wealth had been one of the roots of the conflict which must be addressed.

The panel chair expressed optimism that both parties will be able to wrap up discussions on the annexes. “However, there may be some items that we would have to confer once more with our respective principals before we seal the texts,” she said.

Coronel-Ferrer urged Filipinos and Moros alike to “keep the faith with us as we move closer to completing the Agreement.”

“With conviction, goodwill, and earnest partnership with the MILF, we can make this happen very soon,” she said.