Nov 19, 2012

Philippines - Trust fund, other issues hindering Philippine peace talks

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One issue that has yet to be threshed out before a peace agreement can be finalised between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is the matter of a “trust fund” to help combatants and others affected by the war normalise their lives, the head of the rebel panel said yesterday.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer at the close of the 33rd round of peace negotiations here Saturday, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal intimated this was one of several “unresolved issues” that the two panels would tackle—hopefully before the end of the year.

“The first part of normalisation is economic action on the ground so that people, our combatants, would feel that there is a peace dividend after signing the framework agreement. So necessarily, the trust fund is connected with that socioeconomic action on the ground,” he explained.

Aside from defining the trust fund, Iqbal said the parties needed to identify “where to source the money that would be put in the trust fund”.

“I think it (government) is willing to put up some money for the initial movement towards providing some assistance, rehabilitation and relief of people who suffered in the conflict, including the combatants of the MILF,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal pointed to the need to flesh out details of the trust fund in his remarks at the opening of this latest round of peace negotiations last week.

“There is mention of a trust fund in the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro. There is a need for us to define what we mean by ‘trust fund’. How do we go about this trust fund?” Iqbal said.

The Bangsamoro is envisioned to be the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

President Benigno Aquino III has described the ARMM as a “failed experiment”.

The goal of normalisation, which includes the decommissioning of the arms and the forces of the MILF, is to achieve human security for the Bangsamoro communities affected by the decades-long war and to help them return to their “normal” lives, Iqbal said.

In their closing remarks last Saturday, Iqbal and government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen acknowledged that there were several issues still to be ironed out in three annexes to the Framework Agreement. These annexes deal with wealth sharing, power sharing and normalisation.

“The remaining issues are still so many and very hard but with (the) determination and commitment of both parties, I think we will be able to overcome a lot of issues,” Iqbal said.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Abd Ghafar Tengku Mohammed was optimistic the two panels would be able to complete their tasks “very soon".

Nikko Dizon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

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