MNLF talks put on hold

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The three-party meeting to review the peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in Jeddah next week has been postponed, the administration’s top peace official said yesterday.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza said the meeting, hosted by the Organization of Islamic Conference, had been moved to the end of August to accommodate Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, who could not make it on July 17 to 19.

This is the third time that the meeting has been postponed since December 2006.

“Indonesia is very important because it currently heads the Committee of the Eight, which helped broker the peace accord signed in 1996. Minister Wirajuda has a very tight schedule, and we would not want him not to be able to attend the review,” Dureza said in an interview during the closing ceremonies for the first Mindanao Peace and Security Summit here.

The review of the peace accord was set after MNLF Commander Habier Malik took several government and military officials hostage to call attention to problems with how the agreement was being carried out.

In a separate interview here, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis admitted that the government had not been able to fully deliver its commitments under phase two of the peace accord.

“We have to concede that phase two was not implemented fully. That is why we agreed to this review, to this tripartite meeting,” Seguis said.

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy said the 10-year-old peace accord had not led to visible economic or social progress in Mindanao.

An estimated 228,970 families, or almost 75 percent of the population in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which was created after the peace agreement was signed, still lived below the poverty line, the council said.

Figures from the National Statistics Office also showed that the region’s growth rate from 2000 to 2003 was at negative 2.3 percent—the lowest among the 16 regions in the Philippines.

Seguis said the government was trying to move the meeting to Manila, as this would make it easier for the detained honorary chairman of the MNLF to attend.

Nur Misuari is facing rebellion charges before a Makati court, which recently gave him leave to attend the postponed July 17-19 meeting.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday that if Misuari left for the talks, security measures would be taken to ensure he did not escape.