Talks with MNLF a review, not negotiations
MANILA, Philippines - It's still a conversation, not new negotiations.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Monday, June 17, clarified a report stating that the government is set to "resume negotiations" with former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles said the planned meeting with the MNLF was only meant as a "tripartite review" of the status of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement to be facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Conference, which has brokered the talks between the two parties since the '70s.
"Walang bagong negosasyon ang GPH (government of the Philippines) at MNLF. Ang proseso ng GPH sa MNLF ay ang tripartite implementation review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. Ito ay nag-umpisa sa ilalim ng dating administrasyon na ipinagpatuloy lang natin," Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles said in a text message. (There is no new negotiation between the GPH and the MNLF. The ongoing process between the MNLF and the GPH is the tripartite implementation review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. This started in the previous administration and we are just continuing with it.)
Deles was responding to comments by a representative of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) questioning why the government is calling the meeting with the MNLF a "negotiation" when it had previously been considered it as a "conversation." The MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF.
The statement came as the MILF and the government reached a deadlock in their own peace talks over contentious issues on dividing wealth and power between the proposed Bangsamoro region and the national government.
“It is a pressure to the MILF to accept a lesser bargain especially on wealth-sharing," Khaled Musa, deputy chair of the MILF committee on information, said in a statement posted on luwaran.com. "This is a form of driving a wedge between Moro groups.”
Indonesian ambassador arriving
On June 13, a news story entited "Gov't, MNLF to resume talks" appeared in the Philippine Star quoting lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, who was identified as the MNLF spokesman, as saying that the government has "finally agreed" to resume the peace talks with the MNLF. The same article also appeared on abs-cbnnews.com, which has a content partnership with the broadsheet.
While OPAPP admitted that meetings with the MNLF and the OIC were originally scheduled on June 17 to 19, Peace Adviser Undersecretary Joe Lorena said calling the meeting a negotiation was inaccurate.
"The statement that it is a negotiation is not correct because the negotiation has been concluded as early as 1996," Lorena said.
Asked whether there might have been a miscommunication about the real status of the talks, Lorena said, "With all due respect to our compañero from General Santos, who claims to be the spokesperson for the MNLF, he might not have known the process. He might not have been privy to the context of the process and just issued a statement lumping everything when it is clearly not a negotiation. Clearly the statement was really not accurate."
Lorena also said OPAPP has sent a letter to the Philippine Star seeking to clarify the report.
In preparation for the "tripartite review," Indonesian Ambassador Hassan Kleib is set to arrive in the country on Thursday, June 20, to meet with OPAPP representatives to discuss the pending items on the implementation of the 1996 peace pact. Indonesia is the current chair of the OIC Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines.
Once both sides agree on the agenda, they will set the date and venue of the talks. - Rappler.com