A Year After Buliok, Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks Needed for Mindanao

The “Mindanao Peaceweavers” supports the holding of exploratory talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 19-20, and hopes that the meeting if successful will lead to the resumption of formal talks. There is public impatience for the resumption of negotiations even if only exploratory, since the last round of exploratory talks was held last September 2003 in Kuala Lumpur. This impatience is also understandable considering that the formal GRP-MILF talks had opened in October 1999, was derailed by the “all-out” war six months later in April 2000, and after the February 2003 war in Buliok, has been moving forward largely through exploratory talks and back-channeling efforts.


The “Mindanao Peaceweavers” supports the holding of exploratory talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 19-20, and hopes that the meeting if successful will lead to the resumption of formal talks. There is public impatience for the resumption of negotiations even if only exploratory, since the last round of exploratory talks was held last September 2003 in Kuala Lumpur. This impatience is also understandable considering that the formal GRP-MILF talks had opened in October 1999, was derailed by the “all-out” war six months later in April 2000, and after the February 2003 war in Buliok, has been moving forward largely through exploratory talks and back-channeling efforts.

As civil society monitoring the progress of the GRP-MILF peace talks since the 2000 war and shadowing the conduct of the formal talks, we reiterate the following proposals and recommendations to the respective peace panels on the eve of this round of talks:

  1. For the peace panel and the Malaysian government to fast-track the deployment of the third party international ceasefire monitoring team. We understand that the development of the terms of reference is still in process but we would like to emphasize the urgency of the deployment and presence in Mindanao of the monitors as a deterrent to truce violations. We propose that the International Ceasefire Monitors be also deployed in Maguindanao, Cotabato and Lanao which the Comelec and the local police commands have identified as “areas of concern” in the May 10 national elections.
  2. For the panels to constitute the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) as agreed in the May 6, 2002 Joint Communique. This mechanism must be immediately operationalized if we are to prevent another Buliok war, which was an example of an incident which the May 6 Joint Communique envisioned to prevent.
  3. For the panels to strengthen the Joint GRP-MILF CCCH (Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities) and to support the current efforts of the Joint CCCH to defuse tensions in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Lanao provinces, commendable because of their achievements even with the limited mandate and resources of the CCCH.
  4. For the panels to allow Observers from civil society and stakeholders in Mindanao for the duration of the peace talks, whether exploratory or formal in nature. We propose that at least eight (8) representatives of our network be accredited as observers, subject to the standard requirements of accountability and responsibility in the handling and dissemination of information. Our observers will be process observers who will represent indigenous peoples, Bangsamoro civil society, displaced communities, women and peace and human rights advocates in Mindanao.

In return, the Mindanao Peaceweavers will develop a feedback mechanism that will ensure the dissemination of information down to the community level. We hope that information through public consultation and the radio networks will increase public awareness and support for the peace negotiations.

We send the peace panels warm encouragement and support, as we hope that there will be a breakthrough in the GRP-MILF talks similar to the gains made in the Oslo talks this month between the GRP and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Signed:

JOSE ACMAD
Mindanao Peoples Caucus

TONY APAT
Agong Network

GUAIMEL ALIM
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society

KAREN TANADA
Mindanao Solidarity Network (NCR)

ALVARO SENTURIAS
Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement

REY MAGNO TEVES
Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference

FR. ANGEL CALVO
Peace Advocates Zambonga

AUGUSTO MICLAT, JR
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

Background:

The Mindanao Peaceweavers is a broad coalition of key networks of peace advocates, grassroots leaders, humanitarian groups and NGOs based in Mindanao and Manila that was formed from the “Peace in MindaNOW” conference held in May 2003 in Davao City. The coalition seeks to
promote peoples participation in the peace process, consensus building, joint campaigns, dialogue and lobby for peace and development in Mindanao. It held a peace strategy meeting last February 6-7 in Davao City.

Mindanao Peaceweavers sent a letter today (18 February, 2004) containing these proposals and recommendations to Sec. Silvestre C. Afable Jr. and Mohagher Iqbal, respective chairs of the government and the MILF peace panels.

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