ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 12, 2012) – The Philippines resumed peace talks on Wednesday with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Malaysia which is brokering the negotiations.
New government chief peace negotiator Miriam Ferrer led the talks in an effort to finish the agenda on wealth and power sharing with the MILF in the so-called Bangsamoro territories which shall replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Ferrer replaced Marvic Leonen who was recently named as Supreme Court Justice.
Manila earlier said it wanted to sign a peace deal with the MILF before the year ends so it could start rebuilding war-torn areas in Mindanao where the rebel group is actively operating.
Both sides signed the Bangsamoro in October and a referendum is expected in the ARMM which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur; including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, and also in other Muslim communities in the South wanting to be included in the new region.
Ferrer said the Aquino government is sincere in the talks and is ready to bring developments to the Muslim region.
“Given the development needs and fiscal realities in the region, achieving a good measure of economic viability and fiscal autonomy for the long haul cannot but happen in a gradual and phased manner. The Government is ready to give all the support necessary to jumpstart the process,” Ferrer said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
It was unknown how the MILF would address the thousands of weapons in the hands of rebels should it sign the peace agreement. Manila said rebel forces should decommission its combatants.
“Decommissioning of combatants and weapons we understand very well is normally what any armed revolutionary group fears to tread. There is fear of being left defenceless in a landscape populated by so many other armed groups and individuals,” Ferrer said.
“There is uncertainty of combatants and their families of what future awaits them under a new phase where different skills, trainings and orientation would be needed; where protection shall be weaned away from reliance on the barrel of the gun toward faith in what the power of communal efforts, nonviolence and resiliency can achieve for individuals, families, communities and the Bangsamoro at large.”
Ferrer assured the rebel group of the government’s livelihood and skills program for rebels. (Mindanao Examiner)