Aquino gov't to resume peace talks, review structure
MANILA, Philippines - The new Philippine government will resume talks with Maoist-led guerrillas and Muslim separatists to end long-running insurgencies, but will review the structure of the process, the official overseeing the issue said on Thursday.
The administration of President Benigno Aquino III would also set up a fund in the next 100 days to help those displaced by fighting on the southern island of Mindanao, presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles told reporters on Thursday.
"Negotiated political settlement is the only way to bring real closure to armed conflicts," she said. "Clearly, the negotiations will happen."
The Philippines has been fighting dual insurgencies by communists and Muslim separatists since the late 1960s. The internal security risk has delayed development of parts of the country, particularly investment in resource-rich Mindanao.
Peace talks with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) and the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have been a stop-start process and an acceptable deals remain elusive.
"We want to strengthen the teams and get other stakeholders involved, including lawmakers and local officials, and avoid the past mistakes," she said.
The entire peace policy would be reviewed, she said, including the role of foreign mediators.
Malaysia has been facilitating negotiations with the MILF since 2001, and there is an international peace monitoring team on Mindanao. Norway is helping broker talks with the communists.
"We need to have clear terms of reference for the role of our foreign partners," Deles said. "I have never seen such goodwill, but we'd like to know what's the best way for these partners to help."
Deles said she had informally conveyed the government's offer to return to the negotiating table. At his inauguration on Wednesday, Aquino said he would seek a just settlement on Mindanao.
Muslim rebels have been fighting for self-determination and an ancestral homeland in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic state for more than 40 years. They have said they want negotiations with the new government.
Last month, a member of the communist rebel peace panel said they were ready to resume negotiations with the new government and were awaiting overtures from Aquino.
The Maoist guerrillas have attacked plantations, mines, timber concessions, construction projects and telecommunications facilities to extort money to finance their rebellion.
Deles previously served as peace adviser for two years until 2005, when she resigned along with nine other government members after former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was linked to a vote-rigging scandal in the 2004 presidential elections.