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.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Gov't. ready to resume talks with MILF

Mediator Malaysia to pick venue

The Philippine negotiating panel is ready to resume peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Foreign Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis said on Monday.

Seguis, chair of the government panel, said he just met with Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim and Malaysian Foreign Affairs Secretary General Rastam Mohd Issa in Kuala Lumpur.

"I told the Malaysian officials that the Philippine negotiating panel is ready and prepared to return to the negotiating table with the MILF. Now, it's up to the Malaysian facilitator to be the one to inform the MILF," Seguis said in an ambush interview.

Seguis said that Malaysia had also expressed its readiness as mediator in the talks.

Malaysia has resumed brokering the talks after it announced last year a pullout of peacekeepers, citing a slow progress in the Mindanao peace process.

Asked if the kidnappings by Muslim extremists would affect the talks, Seguis said he did not think so, as the crimes were being perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf, not the MILF.

Earlier, the influential Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) urged the government to resume peace talks in Mindanao and come up with solutions that could be turned into an accord.

OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called on the MILF to work with the Manila to save the peace process.

In a statement posted on the OIC website, Ihsanoglu said the uninterrupted military operations in Mindanao had displaced close to a million civilians.

Such a dire condition, he said, could "empower undisciplined elements who seek to abort the peace process and fuel extremist feelings."

He promised to mobilize OIC resources and allied organizations "to alleviate the suffering of displaced populations."

The government aborted the talks in August 2008, after the MILF leadership refused to surrender its rogue commanders responsible for the spate of offensives in southern Mindanao.

In the same period, the Supreme Court ruled that the "ancestral domain" scheme proposed in the draft memorandum of agreement was unconstitutional.

The OIC is an influential grouping of 56 Islamic states and has been brokering negotiations for peace between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and Muslim groups, including the MILF and its precursor, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

OIC's role in the GRP-MNLF peace negotiations led to the 1996 Tripoli Agreement, that in turn resulted in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ihsanoglu urged that both sides continued "to work in the same positive spirit that led to the accomplishments made so far through negotiations and build upon these achievements" toward a just and durable peace.(By Cynthia Balana)

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