Governors of Philippines Muslim south seek common stand

Written by Hader Glang, Zamboanga Today Online.

Governors in the Philippines’ Muslim south have called on President Rodrigo Duterte to convene all stakeholders in an ongoing peace process to pursue a common stand to work toward stability and growth in the insurgency-wracked region.

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The League of Provincial Governors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said in a statement Tuesday that Duterte -- the country’s first leader from southern Mindanao island -- enjoys the respect of the majority of Filipinos and most if not all Muslims.

"He [Duterte] can use such charisma to convene all stakeholders from Moro and indigenous peoples’ sectors in one meeting and sway them into coming up with a common formula for genuine peace in Mindanao,” said Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, the newly elected chairman of the League.

The joint statement was released after ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and southern provincial leaders met Duterte at the presidential palace in Manila on Monday night.

Duerte is reportedly due to pay a 10-day visit to Mindanao, where he will focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process, in the near future.

Earlier Tuesday, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza told GMA News that peace talks between the Philippines' one-time largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the government are back on, with a new round set for the Malaysian capital within the next two weeks.

The talks were shelved -- along with a law that would have sealed a 2014 agreement between the government and the MILF and given autonomy to the Muslim south -- for election campaigning in February of this year.

Duterte said that during his Mindanao visit, he would also consult with Nur Misuari -- the fugitive founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from which the MILF broke away -- granting a safe conduct pass so he could emerge from hiding in the island province of Sulu.

Misuari is currently a fugitive, eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga in September 2013, in which around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

Some MNLF factions have backed the MILF’s peace process with the government, however a faction under Misuari considers it a betrayal of a 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-brokered agreement between the government and the MNLF.

The ARMM governors’ statement said Tuesday that Misuari’s legal counsel had submitted a copy their group’s formula to Dureza, while the largest MNLF faction led by Muslimin Sema had reached a joint consensus with the MILF for an “inclusive” autonomy law.

“It will be tedious for the President to meet each concerned personalities individually just to hear their sentiments and suggestions,” the statement said. “A one-stop meeting with all MNLF and MILF bigwigs as well as ARMM elected officials, and leaders of various sectors in Mindanao will [simplify] the process in more efficient fashion.”

The governors described Duterte’s presidency as “a rare opportunity for Moro leaders to finally unite at least in principle” for the region which has been torn byd ecades of armed conflict.

“Let us prove this time that our slogan of fighting for the cause of the Bangsamoro is for real,” Mangudadatu stressed.

He insisted, “government development efforts have been gaining headway in Maguindanao, but every inch of gains is put to risk each time we have armed atrocity and flooding in our province.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

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