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CSOs stress importance of their role in peace negotiations

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Davao City,  – Civil society organizations (CSOs) in the south underlined the importance of their role in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as discussions are expected to get more difficult on the peace table.

“We need to be aware of the position of the two panels to keep pushing the talks further,” Mary Ann Arnado, Secretary General of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, said during a consultative meeting with GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen held in this district.
She stressed that MPC, a group of non-government groups in Mindanao, want to contribute in helping the GPH and the MILF find common grounds in the peace negotiations.

Glad that both sides have come up with the Decision Points on Principles, which they signed during the 27th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last April, Arnado noted that discussion of substantive issues are sensitive at this point.

Written in broad strokes, the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles contains 10 mutually identified common standpoints that serve as a framework for the final peace agreement.

With the development in the peace negotiations, the MPC, together with the Bishops-Ulama Conference, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, International Alert and Mindanao Solidarity Network, has been convening various groups from civil society to hear updates from the respective peace panels of the government and the MILF “in order to plan together to support the parties on pushing further the negotiations toward the signing of a peace agreement.”

Negotiations at its peak
Leonen, who met with Arnado as well as other members of the MPC, Mindanao Peace Weavers and Consortium of the Bangsamoro Civil Society, stressed that the peace negotiations with the MILF is at the “peak of its discussions” on political settlement.

The parties are set to discuss substantive issues in the next round of talks this May. This includes deliberating “details and particulars” on power-sharing, wealth-sharing between the national government and the envisioned new autonomous political entity, mode of defining its geographical area, transition and normalization mechanism.

“We move forward. It’s clear where the peace talks are leading us—as laid out in the Decision Points on Principles,” Leonen stated.
However, he pointed out that while there is guarded optimism and due diligence, the next talks will be very difficult. “We are now at the heart of the negotiations on political settlement. Such political settlement needs continuous consultations with different sectors. This will go through a political process (in the different branches of government and in the national and local governments),” he explained.

Gov’t remains engaged
The panel chair also emphasized that the government will remain engaged in the peace talks. “It is important that we find a just and lasting solution to this problem in Mindanao,” he said.

Arnado also expressed her appreciation to Leonen who is a “brilliant choice” as chair of the government peace panel due to his “capacity, commitment, and energy for the objective of resolving the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

by: OPAPP/PIA9-ZBST




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