Philippine Muslim Rebels Urge Arroyo To Solve Mindanao Insurgency

September 1, 2007 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 01 Sept) – Philippine Muslim rebels on Saturday urged President Gloria Arroyo to resolve the problems in Mindanao before her terms ends three years from now.

President Arroyo opened peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, in 2001, but there have been no major agreement to end the insurgency in the troubled region, except for a cease-fire accord.

But despite the truce, sporadic fighting between rebels and soldiers still continue in Mindanao with both sides accusing each other of violating the accord. In July, rebel forces killed 14 soldiers in a fierce battle in Basilan island after security forces encroached inside an MILF stronghold while pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants tied to Al-Qaeda.

The MILF is fighting for independence in Mindanao island, whose 16 million populations includes about 4 million Filipino Muslims.

The MILF accused Arroyo of wasting away six years in peace talks. “Don’t dribble too much, 2001 to 2010 is too long for a decisive President to clinch an agreement with the MILF to address the problem in Mindanao,” said Jun Mantawil, a senior rebel leader.

He said the MILF has asked Manila to be serious in the peace talks to solve the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao and put an end to sufferings of people in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region.

Manila postponed peace talks last month in Kuala Lumpur, saying, it was not prepared to meet with the MILF panel.

Malaysia is brokering peace negotiations between the Filipino government and the MILF, but talks ended in September in Kuala Lumpur with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue — ancestral domain – which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

“The government will not be short of pretensions why the talks are not moving, but what it cannot hide is the fact the remaining term of President Arroyo is not far away and even the ancestral domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001 has not been hurdled by the two parties despite the excellent facilitation of the Malaysian government,” Mantawil said.

Ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement with the Philippine government.

The ancestral domain covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines.

Manila previously offered the MILF the Muslim autonomous region, which is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989. The MILF flatly rejected the offer and insisted on self-determination. (Mindanao Examiner)

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