New Malaysian Truce Observers Arrive In Southern Philippines

September 3, 2007 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A team of Malaysian truce observers prepare their things and heading home after spending a year in southern Philippines as a new batch arrives Monday Aug. 3, 2007 in Maguindanao province. The cease-fire observers is part of the International Monitoring Team deployed in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service/Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 03 Sept) – More than two dozen Malaysian truce observers arrived on Monday in the southern Philippines to replace a team heading home, officials said.

The soldiers arrived on board a Malaysian Royal Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao province, where the International Monitoring Team is maintaining a base.

Philippine military officials welcomed the Malaysian team and at the same time expressed their gratitude to those who are returning home after spending a year in the troubled Mindanao region.

Filipino and Muslim rebels peace negotiators have agreed to extend the stay of international truce observers in Mindanao after holding urgent talks last week in Malaysia.

The IMT is composed of 41 officers from the Malaysian Defense Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police, and the Prime Minister’s Department and is also supported by 10 military officers from Brunei Darussalam and 5 from Libya. Japan also has a member in the IMT.

But despite the peace talks and a fragile truce signed six years ago, sporadic clashes between soldiers and rebels still continue in Mindanao.

However, the presence of the IMT prevented the clashes from further spreading.

Malaysia is brokering peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF, but negotiations 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.

It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.

President Gloria opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, which is fighting for independence in Mindanao island, whose 16 million population includes about 4 million Filipino Muslims.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said Manila previously offered his group 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.

The ancestral domain, on the other hand, 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. (Mark Navales)


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