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tnalak-getty2Tnalak-gettyKORONADAL, PHILIPPINES – JULY 18: Filipino natives wait for their turn to perform at the 2009 T�nalak Festival, showcasing South Cotabato Province tribal cultures on July 18, 2009 in the southern city of Koronadal, Philippines. T�nalak is an indigenous term for colorful cloth woven by women of the T�boli tribe that has brought recognition to the province in the national and international scene. US-trained Filipino security forces were placed on heightened alert over fears the country’s homegrown Islamists could try to emulate the Jakarta hotel bombings. Early this month, twelve people died and more than 100 others were wounded in separate attacks carried out by local militants in the region. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 19: Filipino Muslim kids, among the tens of thousands people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine security forces and Muslim separatist rebels, study inside their tent night of June 19, 2009 in the restive Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila. Fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's 11-900-strong rebel group and Philippine military troops began August 2008 when the rebels launched series of attacks across several villages due to aborted signing of a deal that would give them their homeland. Around 300 people died but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian non-governmental organization engage in providing assistance, protection and durable solutions to refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide, recently reported the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation last year. The council said the world's largest new displacement last year happened when 600,000 people fled fighting between Philippine troops and Moro rebels in Mindanao. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

  	 MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 29: Filipino Muslims bury their dead following this morning's roadside bombing which ripped through a marketplace in Datu Saudi Ampatuan on June 29, 2009 in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. Three Filipinos were killed and around 14 injured in the blast, which the Military is blaming on the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), however, MILF deny any involvement. Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila, has seen ongoing fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Muslim rebels and Philippine military troops since August 2008 when the rebels launched a series of attacks across several villages, killing almost 300 people but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - JUNE 29: Filipino Muslims bury their dead following this morning's roadside bombing which ripped through a marketplace in Datu Saudi Ampatuan on June 29, 2009 in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines. Three Filipinos were killed and around 14 injured in the blast, which the Military is blaming on the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), however, MILF deny any involvement. Maguindanao province, 960km south of Manila, has seen ongoing fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Muslim rebels and Philippine military troops since August 2008 when the rebels launched a series of attacks across several villages, killing almost 300 people but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

UN Food Distribution Reaches Displaced Filipino CommunitiesDATU BLAH SINSUAT, PHILIPPINES – JUNE 30: Filipino Muslim children evacuees look as volunteers unload sacks of rice to for them on June 30, 2009 in the coastal township of Datu Blah Sinsuat in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, 960km south of Manila. UN officers from the World Food Programme distributes food and relief to people displaced in the ongoing fighting between Philippine troops and Muslim separatist rebels. The province has seen ongoing fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Muslim rebels and Philippine military troops since August 2008 when the rebels launched a series of attacks across several villages, killing almost 300 people but displacing over half a million more in the initial attacks and fighting which has followed. The MILF Muslim separatist rebel group are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. The World Food Programme (WFP) has supplied over 11,200MT of emergency food aid to Displaced people (IDPs) in the 127 official camps since August 2009, but some of it is being sold to illegal traders. Others do not live in official camps and so have to rely on subsistence of handouts. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

  	 Rising Oil Prices & Over-Fishing Threaten The Philippines Tuna Industry

GENERAL SANTOS, PHILIPPINES - JULY 04: A fish porter is seen carrying fresh tuna in the tuna producing area of General Santos City on July 4, 2009 in the Philippines. The Philippines is a globally important tuna producing area, ranked 7th in the world and with an annual value of PHP6 billion, a large portion of the PHP50 billion made annually by the country's fishing industry as a whole. However, the effects of rising oil prices, the global financial crisis, global warming and over-fishing are all contributing to daily catch volumes reducing. Filipino officials are pushing for policies to emulate those brought in by the European Union to stop such over-fishing, reducing quotas allowed. The tuna fishing industry supports around 75,000 jobs locally, and exports to countries including the USA, Japan and Europe. (Photo by Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

 

Inquirer
Last updated 02:37am (Mla time) 12/05/2007

 

MANILA, Philippines – The government and the country’s largest Moro separatist group are preparing to sign a peace deal after years of tortuous negotiations, but that may be the easy part.

Implementing an agreement to end a conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in resource-rich Mindanao will be much more difficult, both sides say.

After decades of rebellion, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed on a ceasefire in 2003 that has by and large held despite occasional flare-ups of violence.

They have also negotiated on setting up an ancestral homeland for 3 million Muslims that will have a large amount of autonomy but not independence.

Even the rebels say signing the deal is only a step forward.

“The problem is not as easy as some people would like to see it,” Mohaqher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief negotiator, told Reuters in a recent interview at a rebel camp in Mindanao.

“There are still a lot of humps and bumps in the road to peace. Granting that the two parties would be able to sign an agreement next year, there’s still a very big problem on how to implement that deal.”

The government has claimed an end to the rebellion on the southern third of the archipelago once—in 1996, when it signed a peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the group from which the MILF was born.

A decade later, the head of the MNLF is in jail and the group is bitterly criticizing the government for not keeping to its promises. Many MNLF members have taken up the gun again.

Iqbal criticized MNLF leaders for getting co-opted by the government, saying they weakened the struggle for self-determination by accepting official positions.

“We are not applying for any job in the government,” he said. “We want to be masters of ourselves. We want to swim or drown among ourselves. We want self-governance whether it’s a substate or a state within the Philippines.”

Talks between the MILF and the government were expected to resume middle of this month, according to Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process who carries a Cabinet rank.

Dureza said the postponement of the talks, which was scheduled to start yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, was aimed at giving both sides ample time to prepare.

He denied reports that the cancellation of this week’s meeting in Malaysia was due to the Manila Peninsula caper in Makati City last week.

Dureza said, before the caper, chief government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia, a retired general, and MILF chief negotiator Mohaqher Iqbal had already discussed and agreed in principle to move the talks middle of this month.

“It is a slow but sure process of attaining peace in Mindanao,” he said. Edwin O. Fernandez, Charlie C. Señase and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao with Reuters


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Inquirer
Last updated 09:43pm (Mla time) 10/31/2007

 

CAMP DARAPANAN, SHARIFF Kabunsuan, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday said it was expecting to sign a memorandum of agreement on territory with the government in December.

The issue was the biggest stumbling block to the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro rebels, and had caused a deadlock in the talks.

But last week, Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential assistant on the peace process, announced that the deadlock had been broken.

But Dureza declined to elaborate.

“We expect the signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain by December this year,” Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, told reporters here on Wednesday.

Iqbal said the government had agreed to include more villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, the future Moro territory.

With the government agreeing to the MILF proposal for the inclusion of more villages into the territory, many of the problems hounding the peace talks had already been resolved, he said.

“Seventy percent of our demand in the territorial aspect of the ancestral domain was granted by the government,” Iqbal said.

But he declined to state what was actually agreed upon or how large the proposed Moro territory would be.

“It is confidential. What’s important now is that the negotiations are moving forward and we will just tackle some remaining issues,” Iqbal said.

He said the remaining “30 percent of unresolved issues” would be tackled when the exploratory talks resumes on November 14-17 in Kuala Lumpur.

“Right now, we still do not know when we will sign the peace agreement or what we call the political settlement. However, we and the government are still working on it,” Iqbal said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, told reporters in a separate briefing that even with the signing of a final peace agreement, the Moro group will not lay down its firearms.

“We will create our own security force within the proposed homeland,” Kabalu said. Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Inquirer
Last updated 01:05am (Mla time) 10/25/2007

 

COTABATO CITY—Libya has offered to host peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Libyan President Moammar Gadaffi was influential in the decision of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to sign a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

Ambassador’s message

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military relations chief, said Libya’s desire to host the peace negotiations was relayed to them by former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines Salem Adem.

Kabalu said Adem also told MILF leaders during a meeting yesterday that Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, said to be his father’s successor, wanted to meet Mindanao leaders in a bid to consolidate efforts that would lead to a peace agreement.

“He wanted the meeting through the facilitation of the MILF to happen before the year ends. Of course, it will be closely coordinated with the government,” Kabalu told the Inquirer.

Impatience

The government is also becoming impatient at the pace the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is moving, a Malacañang official said yesterday.

Earlier, the MILF said it was becoming edgy because of what it sees as government-instigated delays hounding the resumption of the peace talks.

“If the MILF and other stakeholders were impatient, the government is more so because the problem on peace and order is basic to development,” Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said in an interview with radio station dxMS here.

Best efforts

But Dureza said the government was trying its best to forge a final peace deal with the rebels and that the only way to achieve this is through negotiations.

He also said that the help of every Filipino is needed so that peace would eventually be achieved on the island.

“The peace negotiations are everybody’s concern, your concern, my concern, our concern because we are the stakeholders,” Dureza said.

Government and MILF negotiators have resumed their executive meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, in a bid to break the deadlock in the negotiations.

KL meeting

The deadlock was caused by disagreements over the issue on territory, with the MILF insisting on the inclusion of at least 1000 villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) without preconditions.

The government is steadfast on its position that only about 600 villages could be provisionally included in the discussion for territory.

The government also said that the final composition of the territory would depend on the outcome of a plebiscite to be called for that purpose.

“I’m optimistic they will be able to hurdle some of the contentious issues so we can resume formal talks,” Dureza said.

Deal with MNLF

The 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF led to the forming of the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) and the assumption into office by MNLF chair Nur Misuari as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 10:56pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

 

COTABATO CITY—Government and Moro rebel negotiators managed to break the impasse in the peace negotiations following two days of informal talks in Kuala Lumpur, government and rebel sources said yesterday.

Eid Kabalu, civil-military affairs chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the panels had managed to hurdle the contentious issue on territory.

No details

Retired Gen. Rodolfo Garcia headed the government panel that met with the MILF team, led by Mohagher Iqbal since Tuesday.

But Kabalu declined to give details on how the problem was solved.

“Basically, that’s the result of their meeting. As to how they were able to break it, we will know when both parties formally issue their joint statement,” Kabalu said.

With the deadlock broken, formal negotiations may resume next month, he said.

“It was a breakthrough,” Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, also said when asked about the result of the Kuala Lumpur talks.

New entity

Dureza said both sides agreed on some models for the geographical composition of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). But he declined to give specifics, saying these would be tackled during the resumption of formal talks next month.

The MILF has demanded the inclusion of at least 1,000 villages in the BJE without any precondition, but the government said only about 600 villages could be provisionally included in the Moro territory.


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

By Edwin Fernandez, Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 11:30pm (Mla time) 10/09/2007

 

BULDON, SHARIFF KABUNSUAN–Nine-year-old Jamael Akmad’s life always began at 6 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m.

During the day, she spends most of her time in school. At home at night, she sleeps early and waits for the next sunrise.

“But now, life has changed,” she said.

Jamael’s village of Kulimpang was one of the recipients of a solar energy program funded by the US government and Mirant Philippines.

“We can now study at night, we can now see the world through our television,” Jamael, a Grade 4 pupil at the Kulimpang Elementary School, said.

The electrification project, which has been ongoing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, provided “light” and “new life” to thousands of children, like Akmad, in the region’s poorest and most remote communities.

Sun’s benefits

For example, the solar energy harnessed by the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (Amore) program also benefited fisherman Ajijul Sampang of Tawi-Tawi.

“I had four Petromax (kerosene lamps) before but I sold three of them. In our village, nobody needs them now except those fishing at night. We already have electricity,” Sampang said.

Bukari Gumaga, 47, an imam of Kulimpang, thanked Allah when the fluorescent lamp installed in his house started to flicker into life on Monday.

“At the mosque in our village, we were previously dependent on kerosene lamp. But now we have electricity. We are thankful. My seven kids can also study longer even at night,” Gumaga told the Inquirer.

Savings

Baidido Macatambog, 36, a mother of four, said the solar-energy project also meant savings for her and her family.

“We can now save the money we spend for kerosene daily. We are planning to buy a television so that we will know what’s happening in our country and we can watch leading soap opera shows,” Macatambog said.

To mark the “energization” of some 12,000 household in the ARMM, Amore beneficiaries participated in the region-wide switch-on ceremony on Monday evening.

The event coincided with the observance of Lailatul Qadr or the “Night of Power” in Islam. Lailatur Qadr is celebrated during one of the odd nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Muslims believe that it was during Laila-tul Qadr when the first Divine revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.