GPH-MILF talks moved to April

COTABATO, MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES - SEPTEMBER 19...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Ibrahim Murad, Chief MILF
A March 15, 2011 press release by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Manila – The next round of formal negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been moved to April as requested by the Malaysian facilitator, according to government panel chair Marvic Leonen.
Leonen today confirmed the change in the schedule of the 21st exploratory talks, which is supposed to happen on March 29 and 30 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The GPH and MILF panels concluded their previous talks on February 9 and 10 on a positive note, arriving at agreements on significant issues.
Among these agreements is the renewal of the mandates of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for 12 months.
The IMT, which monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF, is composed of contingents from Malaysian, Brunei, Libya, Japan, and recently, Norway and European Union (EU).
Its new batch, which is the 6th since its deployment in 2004, arrived over the weekend in Cotabato to begin their tour of duty.
On the other hand, the AHJAG, which coordinates the interdiction and isolation of criminal elements, took on a fresh mandate for another year on March 1.
Issues to be raised next talks
In a peace forum held last week at the University of the Philippines (UP) Faculty Center in Diliman, Quezon City, Leonen said that the GPH panel related the primary issues that they will bring up in the next round of formal talks.
These include the concern on Commander Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, who allegedly broke away from the MILF and formed his own armed group; and the Moro group’s draft Comprehensive Compact, which contains their positions on substantive issues.
On the case of Kato, Leonen said that it is “an internal problem” that the MILF is dealing with.
“The MILF is now conducting its own negotiations inside the group,” he stated.
Regarding the 26-page draft Comprehensive Compact, the chief negotiator said that the panel will clarify some points arising from the document.
“We’re considering it as an articulation of their positions, not as a working draft for the negotiations,” Leonen related.