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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                        31  August 2011

Peace negotiations deadlock in Philippines

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Amid a deadlock in peace negotiations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have shifted battle from words to swords as officials from both camps exchanged fiery warnings over differences on the creation of a Muslim “sub-state” in Mindanao.

Reacting to “veiled” threats made by MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar that further delay in the negotiations could lead to more restiveness among Ameril Umbra Kato and other Muslim fighters, the AFP, through acting spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos, on Tuesday said that while they were awaiting final word from the government panel, the military was always ready for any eventuality regardless of the outcome of the peace talks.

Jaafar recently warned that if the peace talks would go nowhere, the “leaders of the Bangsamoro [Filipino Muslims] will opt for independence, which we cannot stop.”

Jaafar added that unless the government found ways to fast-track the peace talks “so as to come up with a negotiated political settlement, so to speak a peaceful solution,” more Katos were likely to emerge.“Because the longer it [peace talks] is, the more problem it would create,” he said.

Jaafar referred to Kato, a renegade MILF commander, as a “mujahideen” or freedom fighter who is among the most respected in the MILF, reputedly the largest Muslim secessionist group with 12,000 fighters.

Burgos said that the Armed Forces would always support the government’s peace efforts and other peace initiatives in resolving conflict situations and that they would continue to pursue non-violent means as a primary effort in attaining peace and stability.

On Jaafar’s assertion that there could be more renegade Muslims who might following Kato’s footsteps, Burgos said, “Our units in the field will continue to carry out security operations in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Our field commanders have their own operation plans and guidelines, which they would follow to accomplish their tasks and mission in their respective localities.”

Jaafar maintained though that for the peace process to succeed, the government should listen to the MILF leadership and heed its proposal because it is the only the Filipino Muslims who exactly know the real solution to the conflict that has dragged on for more than four decades.

He said that the only solution that they want is the creation of a sub-state.

“That’s the solution that we want, that the Bangsamoro people want, the comprehensive compact agreement,” Jaafar pointed out.


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