'Somber' mood in Bangsamoro peace talks due to Zambo standoff
Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2013 - 12:12pm

MANILA, Philippines - The continuing standoff in Zamboanga City has affected the mood in the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer admitted that the current mood in the talks has become "somber" considering that members of both peace panels have families in Zamboanga where  some members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been clashing with government forces.

“We constantly update ourselves with what is going on in Zamboanga and the rest of Mindanao, and we are aware of the situation,” Ferrer said in a news release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

However, Coronel-Ferrer said the ongoing standoff does not stop them from addressing the remaining issues on the negotiating table for the Bangsamoro entity.

The Zamboanga City standoff started on September 9 when members of a Nur Misuari-led faction of the MNLF infiltrated some coastal barangays to reportedly conduct a "peace rally."

Government peace panel Mehol Sadain denied reported claims of Misuari, the MNLF founding chair, that they have been disregarded in the Bangsamoro peace process.

"We never neglected the aspirations of the Moro National Liberation Front," Sadain said.

He added that the OPAPP and the peace panel have actually tried to involve the MNLF in the Bangsamoro talks by initiating a means of convergence between them and the MILF.

But he said it was not within their powers to force the MNLF and MILF together.

Sadain stressed that the Bangsamoro peace deal is not just for the MILF but for all Moros.

"What we have been negotiating for the whole length of the peace process is for the whole Bangsamoro,” said Sadain. “In the end, the Bangsamoro people will decide who will be leading them. Because that is the way democracy works."

New round of talks

The government and the MILF resumed the Bangsamoro peace talks last week, jointly condemning "in the strongest terms" the attacks staged by Misuari-led MNLF faction.

“The perpetrators must be stopped and held accountable for their acts,” the statement said.

It assured the public that government and the MILF remain committed to pursuing the peace process to its "just and rightful conclusion."

Related story: Gov't, MILF panels resume peace talks

Ferrer also remains optimistic that the newest round of talks with the MILF will be productive for both sides.

She admitted though that the remaining power-sharing annex is a "much longer document" needing longer hours of work.

“The important thing is we are really moving forward," Ferrer said.

Both parties finished the wealth-sharing annex in the previous round of talks, where it was agreed that the sharing scheme would be 25-75 percent in favor of the Bangsamoro on taxes collected from its territory.

A sharing scheme of 50-50 on energy and minerals and 25-75 on metallic minerals in favor of the Bangasamoro was also agreed by both panels.

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