EDITORIAL - Peace dividend
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2013 - 12:00am

There has been no armed encounter between state forces and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since the signing of a framework peace agreement in mid-October last year. Over in Sulu, the extremist Abu Sayyaf is fighting a new enemy: a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front that fled to the province with founding chieftain Nur Misuari when he staged an insurrection in 2001. If the two groups annihilate each other, it can only bode well for peace and development in Sulu.

Today when President Aquino flies to Mindanao, he will get an update on the progress of the peace initiative with the MILF. The visit should boost confidence building in the peace process and help consolidate the gains since October.

The relatively stable security situation can be sustained only if accompanied by development efforts and livelihood opportunities, effective delivery of basic services, and social justice. People in conflict zones should see no need to turn to any group espousing armed struggle to advance their interests. People should feel no need to support outlaws or join a rebel movement. People should have a stake in seeing rebels return in peace to the social mainstream, as responsible and law-abiding citizens.

As even government negotiators have acknowledged, there are many roadblocks along the difficult road to lasting peace in Mindanao. The peace initiative with the MILF is a continuation of the peace process started with Misuari and the MNLF. As Misuari has pointed out, the peace treaty he signed with the government in 1996 has not yet been fully implemented. Many things can go wrong in the latest peace initiative, and certain quarters are bent on sabotaging the process. So far, however, the fragile peace is holding in MILF areas.

People in the MILF communities are starting to enjoy the benefits of a relatively peaceful environment. The government, working with stakeholders, must implement measures to ensure that this won’t be a mere lull in armed conflict. Once people have enjoyed the dividends of peace, it becomes harder to reverse the gains.

ABU SAYYAF AS MISUARI GOVERNMENT MILF MINDANAO MISUARI MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT NUR MISUARI PEACE PEOPLE PRESIDENT AQUINO
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