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Archive for the ‘conflict’ Category

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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 07:38pm (Mla time) 09/30/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines–Fresh fighting between government troops and separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces erupted Sunday afternoon in the remote village of Datu Saudi town in Maguindanao.

Eid Kabalu, spokesperson for the MILF, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) by phone that fighting broke out after suspected militiamen, backed by civilian volunteer organization members, fired two rounds of 81 mm mortars in Barangay (village) Kitango at 3 p.m. Sunday.

He said no casualties were reported.

“One of the mortars landed near the headquarters of the joint local monitoring team and the International Monitoring Team (IMT). The other one landed on an area with civilian populace. Until now, the exchange of gunfire is ongoing,” Kabalu said.

He added that the attack was triggered by a skirmish last week, wherein the chief of police of Datu Saudi town was ambushed by the group of Commander Datu Mando Tambulangan of the Moro National Liberation Front.

“The CVOs and militiamen accused us of protecting Tambulangan, that’s why we were dragged in[to] the incident. We have no tactical alliance with Tambulawan. Our troops were on a defensive position when they were attacked,” Kabalu said. When soldiers and the IMT were sent to the area to check on the clash last week, shots were fired at the team. The MILF was accused of attacking the IMT, which it denied.

The IMT, composed of representatives from Malaysia, Indonesia, Libya and Brunei, is tasked to monitor the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF.

Col. Danilo Garcia, 601st Infantry Brigade commander, confirmed Sunday’s clashes and said they reported the incidents to the government ceasefire committee members.

Garcia said ceasefire monitors were in the area as of Sunday afternoon.

“But based on our initial information, it’s between two forces of the MILF operating in the area. We have no idea about what’s causing the conflict. We are closely watching if it will escalate along the national highway,” he said.

The Philippine government and MILF have been negotiating a peace agreement, declaring many times to be close to a positive solution.

However, the peace talks bogged down over MILF ‘s demand to include close to 1,000 villages as part of their proposed future homeland without a referendum.

The government rejected the demand, saying it was against the Constitution. The government said it could only allow 600 predominantly Muslim villages to be included in their proposed homeland.


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

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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 01:28pm (Mla time) 09/27/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has admitted the involvement of its forces in clashes in Basilan province Tuesday that claimed the lives of at least two soldiers.

The military said 10 MILF rebels were also killed in the clashes, the first of which broke out past 7 a.m.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military chief, blamed the military for the fighting in Tipo-tipo Central, where dozens of combatants from both sides were also injured, and said they have filed a complaint before a committee monitoring a ceasefire forged in 2001.

But Major General Nelson Allaga, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the military was suing the MILF too, adding that the clashes proved the secessionist rebels were colluding with Abu Sayyaf extremists.

Kabalu claimed that, like the July 10 incident in Albarka town, where 14 Marines were killed, Tuesday’s violence started when soldiers entered MILF territory without coordinating with the rebels, in violation of the terms of a ceasefire forged in 2001.

“Our troops there were surprised, so they defended their position. There were no Abu Sayyaf members in the area as what the military claims. We already filed a protest before the ceasefire committee,” Kabalu told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

“We are filing protest actions against the MILF in Basilan on the grounds that Moro rebels reinforced the Abu Sayyaf Group that clashed with our troops,” Allaga countered.

“It appears that they (MILF) are colluding with the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he added.

He said the site of the clashes were nowhere near MILF territory, contrary to Kabalu’s claim.

“It’s really far from their area. Our troops were targeting members of the Abu Sayyaf Group [ASG], but it turned out that some loose members of the MILF provided reinforcements to the ASG,” Allaga said.

He also said the 10 gunmen killed in the clashes were positively identified as MILF members.

Von Al Haq, chairman of the MILF ceasefire team, denied any of their fighters were killed. But he acknowledged that six rebels under the command of Commander Hamsa Sapanton were injured in the encounters.

“All the six wounded in action last Tuesday are legitimate members of the MILF, so we have hard evidence against the military for violation of the ceasefire agreement,” he said.

Tuesday’s fighting came even as optimism had begun to run high about the possibility of the government and MILF finally signing a final peace agreement.

The peace talks are expected to resume next month, after the fasting month of Ramadan ends.

Negotiators are expected to discuss the remaining hindrances to a final peace settlement, including the issue of territory.

The MILF has been demanding the inclusion of at least 1000 villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity but the government said the final composition of the territory would have to depend on the outcome of a plebiscite held for the purpose.


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

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 06:20pm (Mla time) 09/20/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Australia has expressed interest in playing a more direct role in the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel official said Thursday.

Australia has been providing support to development projects in war-torn areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other parts of the southern island in a bid to bolster peace talks between the government and the MILF.

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, said Canberra now wants to join the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

The IMT is a body created by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to oversee the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the military and the rebel.

Recently, non-OIC members Japan and Canada were allowed to become part of the IMT.

Japan’s role in the IMT is focused on the socio-economic aspect of the peace process while Canada said it will help develop governance.

“We welcome it. However, we have [a] certain process to follow before they can join. Their decision is still pending in the peace panels,” he said.

It was not clear whether Canberra wants to send military representatives to the IMT like Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Libya and other OIC countries have done.

Kabalu said the role would become clear once Australia’s bid had finally been accepted.

“It will be discussed once the peace talks resume in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after the Ramadan,” he said.

In a related development, Kabalu said they support the proposal of Singapore-based security analyst Taharudin Piang Ampatuan for a broader role for US forces in the peace process.

US forces have been training their Filipino counterparts on anti-terror in Mindanao but Ampatuan said they could also become effective peacekeepers.

“There is no problem with that especially if it helps peace and security, as well as the peace process in Mindanao,” Kabalu said.


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

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