Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

US envoy calls for ceasefire in Mindanao

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Shariff Kabunsuan -- United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney has warned of more displacements in Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao unless the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front declare a ceasefire.

Earlier, Alistair MacDonald, European ambassador to the Philippines, also made a similar call.

MacDonald said the EU was worried about the future of its humanitarian and socio-economic projects in Mindanao because of the resumption of hostilities between government forces and MILF guerrillas.

Figures on the number of people in evacuation centers here and in Maguindanao vary, depending on the source.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the number has risen to 66,000 people due to the skirmishes while government agencies reported the figure to be between 25,000 and 35,000 individuals.

Kenney said during a visit to evacuation centers here on Friday that unless the guns on both sides were silenced, "the more you'll see people like this."

The government has said the military will pursue “rogue” MILF rebels, led by Ombra Kato, until they are captured or killed. Kato was being blamed for attacks in North Cotabato and Sarangani that killed more than a dozen people in August.

Kenney said fighting will not resolve any problem and called on the government and the MILF to return to the negotiating table.

"You know that peace is the better solution for the problem," she said, adding that the violence was forcing people out of their homes.

"There are so many people you see no longer in their homes," she said.

Kenney said only a ceasefire can help displaced residents rebuild their lives.

"I ask both parties to find their way to declare a ceasefire so that people can return home…communities can again be reunited and life can go on peacefully," she said after seeing evacuees living in crammed school buildings here.

Kenney said the US was so saddened at the plight of the evacuees that it will provide about $2.5 million in assistance to them.

"This assistance is new and is intended for relief and rehabilitation," Kenney said.

She said the assistance will include programs for the rehabilitation of war-torn communities.

"Everything we do is always for the people -- that matters most," she said.

"My thoughts are with those who have been displaced by the fighting, people whose lives have been lost and disrupted. Working together, we can help Mindanao move toward peace and prosperity so people may have the future they deserve," she added.

Stephen Anderson, United Nations World Food Programme country director, who came with Kenney, said the recent support offered by the US included about 1,480 metric tons of rice expected to arrive in February.

Reacting to Kenney's call, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the problem lay with the Manila government and not with the MILF.

"The best thing to do is for the government to stop bombing us, allow the Malaysian-led peace monitors to conduct a probe (of the North Cotabato and other skirmishes). If the government will declare a ceasefire, we will do the same," Iqbal said.

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