Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ceasefire paves way to peace breakthrough

From the Manila Bulletin (May 10): Ceasefire paves way to peace breakthrough

Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel Chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer disclosed that the strong commitment of the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to forge a peace agreement and uphold a ceasefire has enabled both parties to achieve breakthroughs in its 16-year negotiations.

In her speech delivered before members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) that was held at a hotel in Makati City, Coronel said that the GPH-MILF ceasefire, which has long been in place, provided a good environment to talk peace, build confidence and trust, lessen incidents of violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, and allow some normalcy in the life of the people in the affected communities.

Coronel-Ferrer, at the same time, also underscored that communities on the ground have benefited from the GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanism, such as the Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH), and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

“These are not mere rhetorical claims. The benefits to the people and the process have been solid and manifest,” she said, stressing the ceasefire mechanism’s constructive roles like delivery of socio-economic benefits; addressing cases of alleged violations filed to the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Post (JCMPs) in Sultan Kudarat; and continuing cooperation in addressing criminality.

Coronel-Ferrer also emphasized that the progress in the GPH-MILF peace talks is largely attributed to the government and MILF’s upholding of the primacy to the peace process.

“It is a mutual decision that both are seriously upholding. Both have heavily invested in it and correspondingly are committed to the peace negotiations’ successful completion and implementation,” she said.

“The MILF is just as committed as the government to be able to complete this process. As the MILF panel also says ‘Failure is not an option.” She maintained that “at the end of the day we both are committed to find good compromises and we need to finish the annexes,” she said.

Coronel-Ferrer also  underscored how different the MILF is from CPP/NPA/NDF.
“There are important features that have served the GPH-MILF Talks well, the absence of which in the GPH-CNN table has hobbled, maybe even asphyxiated, that process,” she said.

On the peace talks with communist group, she cited the lack of ceasefire as “the CPP/NPA/NDF has not moved away from its people’s war strategy where the armed struggle is given primacy” and hence the group’s lack of commitment to primacy of the peace process.

Further, in the conduct of elections in the country, she lauded MILF’s cooperation for peaceful elections to safeguard the peace process. The GPH and the MILF recently signed “the Guidelines for Mutual Understanding for Ceasefire-Related Functions during the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections” which will take effect from April 22 to May 20, 2013.

 “Our negotiating partner, the MILF, does not exploit the electoral exercise as a means to coerce funds or disrupt government processes. The election is not made an extension of its ‘people’s war’,” she said.

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