Friday, November 11, 2011

Deles: Miracles are waiting to happen in peace talks

From the Website of PRWC

Deles: Miracles are waiting to happen in peace talks

Manila, Nov. 11 – “I persist in believing – that on the peace table are miracles waiting to happen.”

Albeit challenges in the peace process, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles remains hopeful that government's efforts in the negotiating table will soon bear fruit.

She said that the peace negotiations with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF are still on track. “Discussions are still happening. We have issues on the tables, but neither has said no, tapos na ito (this is finished). Miracles will happen at the table,” she said.

Further, Deles thanked the public for its support to the government’s peace efforts, particularly in conflict areas where aid is needed the most.

Deles, along with government peace panel chairs Marvic Leonen and Alexander Padilla, who are negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), respectively, faced the media at a peace forum held on Wednesday at the Gateway Suites in Cubao, Quezon City.

The forum was held to shed light on the emerging issues surrounding the peace process, as well as garner media support to the advocacy of peace.

MILF talks moving forward

Of late, issues have been hounding the peace process with the MILF, but Leonen affirmed that both parties are still committed to the process. In fact, informal talks were recently held in Kuala Lumpur where both parties agreed to formally meet again “very soon.”

“In spite of what has happened on the ground, both parties decided that it’s time to move forward on the substantive agenda,” he said.

Leonen also clarified some issues particularly on the P5-million funding assistance given to the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), a training center whose establishment has been agreed by the government and the MILF during the 10th formal exploratory talks held in February 2006 in Port Dickson, Malaysia.

On this, Leonen reiterated that the check, which was a commitment from the government to jumpstart the institute’s operations, was granted to the BLMI, not to the Moro group.

Commenting on Rep. Pastor Alcover Jr.’s plan to file an impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III for allegedly violating the Constitution and betraying public funds by giving such amount to the MILF, Leonen said: “I’m not sure on what basis it is an impeachable offense, but it is something that the administration should be congratulated for because it is recognizing the need to capacitate Moros to become good leaders,” he said.

On the matter of MILF fugitive commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, whom the MILF has refused to surrender to government authorities, Leonen declined to comment on the ongoing operations. “We will leave the statement to the military. Suffice it to say, there is a difference in opinion between the government and the MILF.”

Asnawi is allegedly involved in the ambush and killing of 23 soldiers in Basilan in 2007.

“We have a warrant of arrest on Asnawi,” he continued. “But regarding the facts on the incident, dadaanin na lang natin sa (we will course them through the) CCCH.”

When asked if there is a possibility for peace talks to collapse should the MILF fail to surrender Asnawi, Leonen answered: “We will deal with it when it happens. I cannot speculate.”

Dialogue with reds not suspended

Usec. Padilla, on the other hand, affirmed that talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF are not suspended despite continuous attacks by the NPA on civilian and military targets.

“I don’t want to say that talks are indefinitely suspended. We never suspended the talks. We are still open to negotiations especially on socio-economic reforms,” he said. “In fact, the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) has been shuttling back and forth working on the continuation of the talks. It is ongoing but there is no meeting date yet.”

The NDFP has been demanding the release of its detained alleged consultants before agreeing to meet the GPH panel. “The RNG had arranged for talks to happen on November 2 but two weeks before that, the NDFP released a statement that they won’t engage in peace talks without the release of their consultants. This is a serious violation of the agreement we reached in the Oslo talks in February and the Hague Declaration,” Padilla related.

He added that out of 18 names in the NDF's priority list of consultants they want released, the government has already released five as confidence building measure. But the GPH panel has received reports that one of them has returned to the underground.

Padilla said the government has never closed its doors to the possible release of detained NDFP consultants. “If there will be any releases, it will surely be a confidence building measure, but we hope to see this also on the part of the NDFP,” he said, stressing that the government is seriously considering the possibility of proposing a ceasefire with the communist group.