Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH peace panel, is flanked by Undersecretary Yasmin Busran-Lao and Mehol Sadain in this October 1, 2013 file photo.
The 43rd exploratory talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) opened on Wednesday in
“The time to conclude the formal exploratory talks is now,” said Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH peace panel, in her opening statement at the resumption of the negotiation.
Ferrer stressed that “we cannot afford to lose more time at the expense of the bigger task of implementation, and of the considerable progress we have already gained” as the talk is now on its 43rd session to fine a just and lasting solution to the long-drawn Mindanao conflict that had killed over 150,000, the wounding of tens of thousands and the destruction of billions of pesos over the years.
The Aquino administration is giving top priority to end the armed conflict in southern
Ferrer said that based from experience “a successful peace process usually requires larger doses of goodwill, determination and faith,” adding that “these crucial elements, fortunately, are aplenty (as) they abound between and among the two parties and all the friends of this process.”
Ferrer said the 43rd exploratory talks opened as the two panels are about “coming to terms with the bigger project of ‘normalization’ with its diverse components -- socio-economic, transitional justice and reconciliation, and security.”
“The security aspect alone is made up of several elements -- disbandment of private armed groups, decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons, redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from or within the Bangsamoro as the security situation improves, a halt to the proliferation of loose firearms, and transitional security arrangements that will see the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) collaboratively keeping the peace on the ground,” Ferrer said.
“As with all explorations enthusiastically pursued and assiduously followed by the numerous stakeholders and supporters, the expectations as to what the process will deliver are enormous,” she stressed.
Ferrer enumerated them as follows:
-- Foremost expectation is the end to the armed conflicts in Muslim Mindanao, and a halt to the recurrence of violence involving the various armed groups.
"Certainly, this is an expectation not only for those that will fall inside the Bangsamoro but those areas which would co-exist side-by-side the Bangamoro such as Zamboanga City and the rest of the Zamboanga peninsula, North Cotabato, and Lanao del Norte," said Ferrer.
"We take special note of
In this regard, Ferrer said, "we ask the MILF leadership to ensure that their ranks refrain from any provocative acts that generate distrust among the populace."
-- Secondly, the public expects that the new set of institutions will bring about meaningful autonomy.
But even more important, Ferrer said, "they need to see that these new institutions decisively result in good governance, nurture public trust, and secure the rights and welfare of all (especially the minorities among the minorities, the poorest of the poor, and other disadvantaged segments of society)."
"Equally important, these institutions must serve as the functional channel for peaceful political contestation among politicians and would-be politicians from non-traditional sectors including from those in the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)," she noted.
“In all, the public expectation is that these, our efforts, would truly make a difference. A difference for the better. A difference that is sustainable. A difference that will unite rather than divide. A difference that will bring about a sense of well-being and not stoke the fears and insecurities of the populace," Ferrer said.
Ferrer said that in order to meet these expectations, "we need to put the right people and appropriate mechanisms in place, the benchmarks on which to measure our progress, and the protocols that will guide our actions, and instill discipline among our ranks. We must be able to sustain the integrity of our peace process.”
At the same time “we must intensify our ‘convergence efforts’ among the Bangsamoro and with other non-Moro indigenous peoples (IPs),” she said.
In particular, Ferrer said, "we ask you, our negotiating partners, to show the goodwill and benevolence in extending the hand of friendship with your other fellow Moros and fellow indigenous peoples, especially those, who like you, historically descended from ancestors who have called
Nevertheless, Ferrer said, there is a “need to be realistic enough to know we will also make mistakes. That we will not be able to bring everybody on that board. That we will suffer delays. That there will be naysayers, recalcitrants and breakaways, as well as corrupt and abusive members of our respective organizations. That some will feel left behind while others will abuse and take more than their just share. That there will be opportunists and misfits for the opportunities that will be opened.”
“We come here as skeptical and realistic as anyone else. But these dangers never stopped us from cumulatively achieving consensus and inching our way forward. Why should these stop us now from moving on to the next stage of our work for peaceful change and reforms,” she pointed out.
Ferrer appealed that “the time to conclude the formal exploratory talks is now. Let us enable ourselves to move forward 100 percent to the next stage of implementation. Call it exploratory implementation if you like. After all, there is no ready-made template to these kinds of endeavors.”
Other members of the GPH panel are former Secretary Senen Bacani, Undersecretary Yasmin Busran-Lao, Undersecretary Zenonida Brosas, Undersecretary Chito Gascon.
As the good facilitator has said, "in this round, we are burdened with great expectations."
Also present during the opening ceremony was Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed and the Secretariat of the Malaysian facilitator led by Madam Che.
The MILF peace panel was led by Mohagher Iqbal with Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdulla Camlian, Datu Kinoc, the lawyers and the consultants of the MILF; and the members of the Central Committee.
Also present were members of the civil society groups spearheaded by Professor Octavio Dinampo from Mindanao State University (MSU) in Sulu, Datu Hussayin Arpa of the Philippine Council for Sama and Bajau Inc.
Members from Congress both from the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to attend the exploratory talks in the next few days, along with along with Cabinet secretaries, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
“They manifest the unusually high note of anticipation that we will produce in this round the last of the four Annexes that we had pledged to accomplish in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. In addition, we are expected to close the Addendum to the Annexes on Power Sharing and Wealth Sharing that the GPH and the MILF panels subsequently agreed to add,” Ferrer said.