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I’ll help achieve peace in Mindanao – Loren

January 19, 2010

AMID OPTIMISM BY MALACAÑANG THAT A PEACE AGREEMENT WITH THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT CAN STILL BE SIGNED BEFORE PRESIDENT ARROYO’S TERM EXPIRES IN JUNE, SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA HAS EXPRESSED STRONG RESERVATIONS OVER THE PROSPECT OF AN EARLY RESOLUTION OF THE MINDANAO CONFLICT AND WANTS THE NEXT ADMINISTRATIONS TO SPEED UP THE PEACE PROCESS.
“While I welcome the resumption of formal peace talks in Kuala Lumpur between the government and the two sides, I seriously doubt whether they can come up with comprehensive peace agreement soon enough,” Loren said.
“Let us not raise false hopes. A realistic assessment of the current situation in Mindanao precludes an early political settlement. It is likely that a negotiated political settlement of the conflict would come only under the next administration. And I am willing to help in whatever way I can to achieve peace in Mindanao,” Loren said.
“At the heart of the political negotiation is the issue of ancestral domain, or the coverage of the areas where the MILF can exercise effective control. Let us not forget that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that was junked by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional and an affront to the country’s territorial integrity took years of negotiation,” Loren said.
Loren explained that the peace process requires consultation with all stakeholders in Mindanao—the Muslims, Christians, lumads or indigenous peoples.
“Can the government and the MILF be able to get the sentiments of all these stakeholders within five months? And even if they do, will they be able to come up with a mutually acceptable agreement that is consistent with the Constitution,” Loren asked.
The senator explained that the entire country will be gripped with election fever until May and there simply won’t be enough time for the government to conduct an honest-to-goodness consultation process with Mindanao stakeholders before June.
Loren said that many of the private armed groups maintained by political warlords are in Mindanao, and this would complicate the attainment of an early peace in the region.