Erap wishes PNoy success in peace efforts with MILF

By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 13 2013 07:37 AM | Updated as of Feb 13 2013 03:37 PM

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada wished President Aquino success in peace efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Estrada said he is hoping Aquino will be able to make Mindanao the country’s food basket.

“I hope he will succeed. That is my dream, to see Mindanao to have lasting peace. The problem on secessionist movement is already more than 40 years. We must have peace and order in Mindanao and make it a food basket of the country,” he said.

Estrada made the statement during a motorcade with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) along with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“For the interest of the country, I hope and pray that it will be successful,” Estrada said.

Aquino visited the MILF’s Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute compound in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao to launch the socio-economic initiative called Sajahatra Bangsamoro in preparation for the creation of the autonomous region spelled out under the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro is an initiative aimed at uplifting the health, education and livelihood conditions of MILF communities to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity that was agreed on between the government and the MILF.

Sen. Francis Escudero said President Aquino made history in making the visit to the MILF.

“He is making history, it’s bold, it’s courageous, and I salute him for it,” Escudero said.

“It is part, I believe, of confidence building measures that are necessary to make the framework agreement work and achieve lasting peace in Mindanao,” he added.

Escudero said Aquino’s gesture to personally tackle and find solutions to the peace problem in Mindanao is a grand and magnanimous act coming from the highest official of the land.

Estrada, for his part, said there were earlier peace efforts with the MILF during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos but nothing happened.

He said the late former President Corazon Aquino also went to Zamboanga and offered peace to then Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari, but nothing happened because the MNLF split up, with the MILF as a breakaway group.

“I also continued the peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire... but the talks did not yield positive results after three months and a maximum of six months to enter into a peace agreement with the government,” he said.

Estrada said the country is beset by the problem of insurrection and secession for over 40 years, stressing that the government must stand strong to contain the problem.

“The problems on MILF and (the communist New People’s Army) NPA has been there for more than 40 years. What kind of government do we have if we cannot impose our own laws? The NPA wants to overthrow the government while the MILF wants to dismember our country. We have a very small country and then they want to divide it,” he said.

Estrada said UNA would continue all the good programs started by Aquino.

“We are the new opposition. No more crab mentality. We need to unite for the good of the country. Whatever, for as long as it is for the greatest good and the greater good of the country. So long as President Aquino is doing the right thing for the country, we will support him,” Estrada said.

“But if they go against the policies, the three of us, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will be very vocal against the Aquino government. We are not riding on them,” Estrada said. – With Christina Mendez