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International community welcomes PHL-MILF peace agreement

October 9, 2012 2:07am
Govt, MILF agree to create new political entity
Gov't, MILF agree to create new political entity . President Benigno Aquino III announces that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to create a new political entity called 'Bangsamoro' during a press briefing in Malacañang on Sunday. The President said the government will continue to exercise exclusive powers of defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and coinage, citizenship, and naturalization. Robert Viñas
The international community on Monday congratulated the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for finalizing the landmark framework peace agreement between them.

Emotions overcame the peace negotiators as President Benigno Aquino III announced that they had reached agreement, according to Steven Rood, country representative of The Asia Foundation, who was there as part of the peace talks' International Contact Group (ICG).
 
"In the session room in Kuala Lumpur while we were watching the President over the Internet,  there was applause, crying, palakpakan, iyakan...They were very emotional at this chance for the Bangsamoro to transition to reality," Rood said.
 
He also said the transition may take a few more years, but hopefully lead to elections in 2016.
 
"Many of the hardest issues have in fact been defined in the framework agreement...there may be some tense negotiations still but both sides have built up goodwill."
 
Rood added that the details in the annexes may take up until the end of the year, followed by about two years for the transition to draft a new Bangsamoro basic law, which will be presented to Congress.
 
He said that if and when Congress approves the basic law, a plebiscite would follow to lead to elections for the Bangsamoro legislature in 2016 and a ministerial government.
 
Aside from The Asia Foundation, there are three other  foreign-based non-government organizations and four countries in the ICG.
 
The four countries are Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
 
 
In separate statements, foreign embassies in Manila expressed their support for the accord, saying this will foster lasting peace and stability in strife-ridden Mindanao, the site of numerous violent battles between government troops and Muslim rebels.
 
United States Ambassador Harry Thomas welcomed the development in the ongoing peace process. He hoped that the parties can continue to avoid violence as they work toward a final resolution that will last for generations and benefit all the people of the Philippines.
 
“We welcome the announcement by the government of the Philippines and the MILF that the two sides finalized a framework peace agreement. While much work remains, successful implementation of this agreement would improve security, stability, and development for the people of Mindanao,” he said.
 
“We will continue to look for ways to support the people of Mindanao as they accelerate broad-based and inclusive growth. We also acknowledge the deliberate steps by all parties to maintain the cease-fire that has been in place since 2009,” he added.
 
The European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton, in a statement, said that the early signature of the “truly historical document is a major step towards a long-lasting peace in Mindanao, which will lead the island to stability and prosperity.”
 
“I wish to express my congratulations to the government of the Philippines and the MILF on the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the framework peace agreement reached on 7 October, 2012,” said Ashton, who is also the Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission.
 
The EU also recognized the contribution of the Malaysian facilitator of the peace talks, Tengku Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, as well as the members of the International Contact Group, to the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations.
 
The EU, as a member of the International Monitoring Team and major development partner in poverty alleviation in Mindanao since 1990, said that it will continue to lend its full support to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
 
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Monday welcomed the framework peace agreement, characterizing it as “a testament to the commitment of both the [Philippine] Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to the concept of a peaceful settlement.”
 
“I particularly acknowledge the leadership of Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, who has been a strong advocate for peace,” said Carr in a news statement.
 
Australia has contributed to peace and security in Mindanao through support for basic education, governance reforms and strengthening community resilience by working with local government, security forces, citizens and civil society groups on conflict resolution. The core of Australia’s aid program in conflict-affected areas is to improve the quality of and access to basic education across 3,000 schools, including Islamic pre-schools.
 
‘There will still be challenges’
 
A separate statement from the United Kingdom embassy in Manila quoted its Foreign Secretary William Hague as saying: “[The framework agreement] is a testament to the commitment and vision of the parties.”
 
“The agreement has the potential finally to end the long-running conflict. Full implementation of the agreement by 2016 can bring about peace, security, and development. That will be good not only for Mindanao, but for the whole of the Philippines,” Hague said.
 
Hague said that since the UK is a member of the International Contact Group, it will continue to provide further assistance if such a role would be valuable to the parties.
 
British Ambassador Stephen Lillie further said: “One of the most relevant lessons at this point is to recognize that even after an agreement it won't all be plain sailing, and there will still be challenges. But with commitment and hard work these will be far outweighed by the benefits of peace, as our own experience since the Good Friday Agreement was signed 14 years ago shows.”
 
The Japanese embassy said that the accord is an “important first step toward the realization of the final agreement concerning the Mindanao Peace Process.”
 
“Because the framework agreement leaves the resolution of several important issues to future negotiations, it is expected that more difficulties must be overcome to reach the final agreement. Japan strongly hopes that both parties will steadily implement the contents of the Framework Agreement and continue their persistent negotiation efforts towards the early realization of the final agreement," said the Japanese embassy.
 
Japan contributed to the peace process through its membership in the International Contact Group and by sending development experts to help the parties reach an amicable compromise. It also pursued economic cooperation projects in former conflict-affected areas.  — DVM/ELR, GMA News



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