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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                             6  September 2011

Little hope for peace in Philippines

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The MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Monday it will not sign a peace agreement with the Aquino government unless its demand for a sub-state in Mindanao is granted.

Peace negotiations between Manila and the MILF ended in Malaysia on August 24 without any agreement that would put an end to decades of bloody fighting in Mindanao. The MILF, which is fighting for self-rule, said it will pursue a sub-state in the mineral-rich but restive region in the southern Philippines.

"The MILF will not sign an agreement that will not solve the problem because even if we signed an agreement that is beneficial to us, but not acceptable to our people, then the struggle will go on. We are nothing if the Bangsamoro people will not support us," MILF leader Murad Ibrahim said. "In our continuing massive consultations, a sub-state for the Bangsamoro people as a political settlement of the Bangsamoro struggle to regain self-governance and right to self-determination is acceptable to our people as an alternative to independence," he added.

Ebrahim said his negotiators will not meet their government counterparts next week as planned because the two sides' positions were too far apart.

"With this situation we feel that there is no point of discussion between the two panels," Murad told reporters at Camp Darapanan, the MILF's headquarters on the outskirts of Cotabato city.

Murad said the MILF will instead ask the Malaysian facilitator of the talks to meet separately with both sides in an effort to have the government alter its peace plan, which he described as an "exercise in futility".

Government peace negotiators headed by Marvic Leonen offered an expanded autonomy in Mindanao which the MILF flatly rejected.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier said the MILF's demand for a sub-state cannot be granted because the Constitution only allows autonomy.

The MILF said the government offer was below their expectations and does not differ from the proposals of previous administrations.

Murad said the government proposal was not comprehensive, only a framework for the integration of the Muslims into the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which comprises the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao.

"Integration is opposite to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination and self-governance. Integration coupled with massive development will not solve the problem. If the (peace) agreement is not reflective of the real aspiration of the Bangsamoro people, then it is an exercise in futility," Ibrahim said.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said the government proposal will not solve the problems in Mindanao


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