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Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prompts Philippines government-MNLF talks

Islamic organisation takes initiative for implementation of 1996 peace accord

Gulf News

Manila: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) helped the Philippines government and a former separatist Filipino-Muslim rebel group schedule peace talks for the implementation of a 1996 peace accord at the Presidential Palace in mid-June, a local newspaper reported.

“We are happy that the [Philippines] government has finally agreed to resume peace talks [with the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF in Malacanang, the presidential palace],” lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla told the Star.

The peace talks are scheduled for June 17-19, after the OIC issued a resolution which proposed the synchronisation of the Philippines government-MNLF 1996 peace accord with the framework agreement that was forged by the Philippines government and the MNLF last 2012, Fontanilla said.

This will pave the way for the holding of formal talks between the Philippines government and the MNLF in Saudi Arabia in August, said Fontanilla.

The final implementation of the 1996 Philippines government-MNLF peace accord involve issues such as coverage of territory and sharing of resources, he explained.

If they are not resolved in the informal and formal peace talks, the MNLF will seek OIC’s endorsement to elevate the issues before the United Nations, said Fontanilla.

In 1996, the Philippines government and the MILF called for the expansion of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Then the two houses of Congress amended the Organic Law (the basis of ARMM’s existence) and allowed a second referendum for autonomy in the southern Philippines in 2001. This resulted in ARMM’s expansion which is now composed of five provinces and one city.

MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari was also elected ARMM governor from 1996 to 2001.

Misuari was also not satisfied with ARMM’s expansion through a referendum for autonomy, a provision of the 1987 Constitution.

The Philippines government and the MNLF had already forged a peace settlement in Tripoli Agreement in 1976, during the time of former Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos and Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafy. At the time, the Philippines government and the MNLF agreed to have autonomy for Filipino-Muslims in 18 provinces and nine cities in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

This was not fully implemented during the time of Marcos, but it became a benchmark against which any ensuing peace settlement between the Philippines government and the MNLF was measured.

It was also a yardstick that measured the proposed peace settlement being completed by the Philippines government and MNLF’s faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which have forged a framework agreement in 2012.

The Philippines government and the MILF have proposed to expand the ARMM with six towns and 800 Muslim-dominated villages because residents there had voted to be included in the ARMM during the 2001 referendum for autonomy.

Misuari was against a provision of the Philippines government-MILF framework agreement which says the ARMM should be replaced and renamed as the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity.

Sharing of resources

At the same time, the sharing of resources, a provision present in the 1996 Philippines government-MNLF agreement, is also existing in the 2012 Philippines government-MILF framework agreement.

In this light, the implementation of this provision is easier, a political analyst said.

Both provisions on coverage and sharing of resources need an implementing law to be drafted by the Philippines Congress.

President Benigno Aquino has appointed representatives of the Philippines government and the MILF as members of a commission that is now drafting the proposed Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL). It will be given to the two houses of Congress to guide the drafting of a proposed law for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity.

Earlier, the MNLF complained for not being part of the commission.

Denying that a conflict is about to erupt between the MNLF and the MILF regarding this issue, Fontanila said, “The MNLF sees no conflict with the framework agreement (between the Philippines government and the MILF) because it aims to address the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao.”

“The MNLF has already renounced violence to attain its objective,” said Fontanilla.

The OIC was instrumental in bridging the gap between the MNLF and the MILF, a source told Gulf News.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles will lead the June 17-19 peace talk, which will be brokered by Indonesia, an OIC member country.

Malaysia, also an OIC member country, is brokering the Philippines government-MILF peace talks.

The conflict in the south between Filipino-Muslims and government soldiers has killed 150,000 in the early 70s.

The MNLF was established in 1969. The MILF became a faction of the MNLF in 1978, after the Philippines government and the MNLF forged the Tripoli Agreement in 1976.