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Civil society organizations clamor for completion of peace talks between GPH and MILF

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(OPAPP logo)

(OPAPP logo)

Members of Bangsamoro civil society organizations and peace advocates trooped to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) headquarters in Pasig City on Wednesday to call for the immediate completion of the Comprehensive Agreement being hammered by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The GPH and the MILF peace panels are set to continue negotiations to finalize three out of four annexes, which together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), will constitute the Comprehensive Agreement. These annexes are on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing and Normalization. In the last round of talks in February, the Parties signed the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities which provides the roadmap for the creation of the Bangsamoro.

The peace advocates called on both the GPH and the MILF to “take care of the peace process” for the sake of the “lives and properties of the civilians who are always the losers in war.” Led by Muslim women garbed in niqhabs, the traditional loose black attire covering the head and body, they held placards calling to “preserve the gains of the peace process, continue the GPH-MILF peace talks, no to spoilers of the peace talks,end the violence in Sabah peacefully,” among others.

“We cannot accept a delay in the peace talks as it will give opportunity to those who [want to] spoil it,” members of Anak Mindanao Party List [AMIN] and Bangsamoro Solidarity Movement (BANGSA) said in a statement read during the rally. “We cannot accept that the gains brought by the Framework Agreement… [will] be diverted by other issues.”

They slammed what they see as “unseen hands” that are trying derail the peace process in light of the outbreak of violence that resulted from the Sabah issue. “We are seeking peace in Mindanao for so long, the chance to attain peace is now in our doorstep and the opportunity to end the conflict is now a few steps away. We call [for] unity and for our people to rally towards peace as we condemn those unseen hands in continuously obstructing it,” they said.

The members of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) and the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), who were also part of the rallyists, warned that should the peace negotiations fail, “it would mean going back to war which would again claim lives and damage properties.”

The peace advocates likewise called for a peaceful resolution to the Sabah issue but underscored that it “should be handled properly so that it will not destroy the peace process.”

GPH peace panel member and Presidential Assistant for Muslim Concerns Yasmin Busran-Lao and OPAPP Undersecretary Joe Lorena, welcomed the CSOs and assured them that the government remains steadfast to the peace process with the MILF.

“Salamat sa inyong pagpunta dito. Ito ay nagpapatunay na mahalaga ang partisipasyon ng kababaihan sa usapang pangkapayapaan. Ayaw po nating maulit muli ang paghihirap na mga kababaihan at mga bata dahil sa giyera. (Thank you for coming here. It signifies the importance of women’s participation in the peace process. We don’t want women and children to suffer again due to war and conflict),” Lao said to the group.

“Kami po ay nakikinig sa inyo. Ayon sa panawagan ninyo na ituloy ang usapan, iyon ay aming tutugunan. Ang usapin na ito ay para sa inyong lahat. [We are listening to you. In accordance to your call that we pursue the peace negotiations, we will do that. The peace talks is for everyone.],” Lao said in her response statement.

In a dialogue with the leaders of the rally, Lao said that a final peace agreement is possible by April. “The remaining three annexes are almost complete. I think we will finish that within the month,” she said.

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