Philippine Government resumes talks with MILF | Asia Pacific

Philippine Government resumes talks with MILF

Philippine Government resumes talks with MILF

Posted 6 December 2011, 22:44 AEDT

Talks aimed at ending the long running conflict in the Southern Philippines are into their second day on Tuesday President Benigno Aquino is holding on to the hope that an end of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao can be achieved by early 2012.

The negotiations are being held with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on neutral ground in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. Its the first round of formal talks since deadly clashes between the MILF and the Philippine armed forces in October.

Presenter: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Pauli Cunanan, Communications Director for the President's adviser in the peace process; Dr Steven Rood, Philippine Country Representative for the Asia Foundation.

SNOWDON: President Benigno Aquino has an ambition.

To settle the dispute with the MILF by March next year, well ahead of the next election and less than one year into his job as President.

Pauli Cunanan is the Communications Director for the President's adviser [Ms Teresita Deles] in the peace process.

CUNANAN: The talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are moving forward. There's an intense and candid exchange on the substantive issues between both parties, its a three day schedule. Well of course we're always hoping for a positive outcome.

SNOWDON: The talks would be intense, overshadowed as they are by the October killing of 19 soldiers in an MILF ambush on the southern island of Basilan. And now the abduction of Australian man Warren Rodwell by unknown kidnappers.

The fierce battles that followed the October incident killed 40 people, displaced thousands and threatened the peace process. Tensions remain as the opening statement by the government's chief negotiator, Marvic Leonen included these strong words.

STATEMENT: We (however) call on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to show more of its commitment by more actively identifying and assisting in the arrest of many lawless elements. Let us prove that our ceasefire mechanisms are not havens for kidnappers, murderers and terrorists.

SNOWDON: But Marvic Leonen added the government is ready to move forward and that its satisfied with the current ground conditions. He reminded the participants the President wants all out justice, not all out war, as some demanded after the October killings.

Philippine Country Representative for the Asia Foundation, Dr Steven Rood says the talks are evidence of Aquino's commitment to end the conflict.

Its cost an estimated 100,000 lives since the MILF's demands for independence started the rebellion in the 1970's

ROOD: I think the President has as you said demonstrated his very firm determination to avoid resorting to all out war. And we find that the average citizen in surveys is supportive of that effort preferring to use peaceful means rather than military means. At the same time of course there are other leaders in the Congress, in the local governments and the Senate who have diff views and the President will have to bring them along to make the deal stick.

SNOWDON: But the security issues are being kept to one side of the political talks for now.

ROOD: The complicating factor is the investigation that has begun by both sides into the Basilan Island where 19 special forces were killed. But once a conclusion has been reached the panel will have to look into how to handle anything that has come out of that investigation.

SNOWDON: Attempts to contact the MILF have been unsuccessful for this report. With details yet to be released we there's no knowing if the MILF's demands for a large degree of autonomy will coincide or clash with the Government's agenda.

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