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AFP, MILF, other groups react to gov't-MILF draft pact

October 7, 2012 5:32pm

(Updated 6:13 p.m.) Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday welcomed the forging of a draft framework agreement between the government and the MILF, which they said could finally end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

MILF vice-chairperson for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said he hopes the draft pact will lead to a more comprehensive peace agreement with the Philippine government.

“We have been waiting for this for many, many long years… Finally, the Bangsamoro issue will be addressed and mawawala na rin ‘yung Mindanao conflict because this issue has been [the] root cause of the conflict,” he told reporters in a phone interview.

President Benigno Aquino III announced on Sunday afternoon that the Philippine government and the MILF have agreed to create the new political entity of Bangsamoro, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The President said the framework agreement “paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao” and “brings all former secessionist groups into the fold.”

Over 100,000 lives have been claimed by the conflict in Mindanao, Aquino said.

Rear Admiral Miguel Jose Rodriguez, AFP deputy chief of staff for Civil Military Operations, for his part, said that the draft agreement may finally bring “unhampered development” to Mindanao.

“This would enable the country to achieve a just and lasting peace paving the way for sustainable growth and unhampered development. The AFP will continue to support all peace initiatives and peace-building efforts of the government,” the military official said in a separate statement.

Rodriguez added that the draft agreement is consistent with “Oplan Bayanihan,” the military’s internal peace and security plan which states the AFP’s commitment to “exhaust all avenues leading to peace and resolving conflicts.”

Other reactions

Peace advocates and other civil society groups also lauded the draft agreement, saying it would open doors for better trade and tourism, among others, in Mindanao.

Claretian priest Angel Calvo, a known peace advocate in Basilan, is hopeful that the draft agreement will help reduce or lessen "warlordism" and "terrorism" in the region.

“It will open wide the doors of trade and tourism with neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to the great benefit of Mindanao, if not the entire country,” said Calvo, lead convenor of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, a civil society organization that helps monitor the ceasefire agreement between the forces of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao.

For his part, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo said that the 10 consensus points reached by both panels were considered a "landmark" in the "long and arduous road to peace."

The Bishop also wanted a more permanent peace agreement with “determination, patience, goodwill, sincerity and transparency.”

However, not all sectors were happy with the agreement.

Kilusang Mayo Uno said the government similarly hailed the creation of the ARMM as a vehicle that would grant the Bangsamoro people their autonomy.

"Puro retorika tungkol sa ikabubuti ng Bangsa Moro! Hindi ba't ganyan din ang retorika sa pagkakatayo ng ARMM?" it said on its Facebook account.

Kabataan party-list secretary general Vencer Crisostomo, for his part, questioned the absence of MILF representatives at Malacañang, when Aquino made the announcement.

"Kung nagkasundo na, bakit walang rep ng MILF dyan?" he said on his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said she expects some groups to be not too happy about the agreement.

But she added she is confident the agreement puts the Philippines in a “far better place” as far as the peace process is concerned.

“I think in every peace agreement you have some opposition and resistance. [But] I am confident we have an agreement we can implement, that is reasonable, and can call the broadest support from the broadest number of stakeholders,” she said.— with a report by Malu Cadeliña Manar/BM, GMA News




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