Ancestral domain tops issue in talks with MILF
() - April 6, 2005 - 12:00am
DAVAO CITY – Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiators will focus on the issue of ancestral domain when they meet on April 16 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the two panels would have to resolve the matter of ancestral domain at the level of technical committees before moving on to the resumption of peace talks.

"The two panels have to resolve that issue on ancestral domain," he said. "The discussions in the coming Kuala Lumpur meeting will center on ancestral domain as the main agenda."

Whatever agreement is reached at the technical level shall be reviewed and eventually approved by the two panels when peace talks are held, Kabalu said.

Peace talks have been stalled since 2001 following heated disagreements on the issue on ancestral domain.

The government and the MILF also disagreed on how to implement development and rehabilitation package in war-torn areas in Mindanao.

But this had been resolved after the government drafted a development package in coordination with various donor agencies offering to fund identified projects.

Meanwhile, members of the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) are taking a closer look at the socioeconomic situation in Mindanao.

"They are not only concerned about the actual situation on the ground, like the implementation of the existing ceasefire agreement, but they have also touched on the socioeconomic aspect to get a proper perspective of the peace process," said Romeo Montenegro, Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) information chief.

The IMT members have been deployed in key areas in Mindanao as part of their task to monitor the security aspect of the agreement signed in Tripoli, Libya in 2001.

Medco chair Jesus Dureza recently briefed the GRP-MILF-IMT members led by Mohamad Nor Mohamad on the economic development in various areas in Mindanao.

Aside from security concerns, the Tripoli agreement also stipulated the need to monitor the socioeconomic development aspect of the ongoing peace process.

Mohamad said the IMT sought the economic briefing in order for them to gain a better insight into socioeconomic development programs in Mindanao.

Under the Tripoli agreement, the international monitoring team with representatives of the Organization of Islamic Conference will be activated to "monitor the implementation of all rehabilitation and development projects" along with the "observance of international humanitarian laws and internationally recognized human rights, the protection of evacuees and displaced persons, and their safe return to their places of origin in the areas affected by the conflict."

The IMT has also been mandated to continue monitoring existing government relief, rehabilitation and development projects managed and funded by its agencies in the areas affected by the conflict, in coordination with MILF project implementing agency. Edith Regalado

DEVELOPMENT EDITH REGALADO EID KABALU GOVERNMENT AND MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT INTERNATIONAL MONITORING TEAM JESUS DUREZA KUALA LUMPUR MEDCO MINDANAO MINDANAO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
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