PGMA leaves hard part of talks with MILF to Aquino

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jun 22 2010 04:24 PM | Updated as of Jun 23 2010 04:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines--President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will be inheriting a “very exciting and very interesting” peace negotiation process with the rebel groups, the incumbent administration’s peace adviser said.

In an interview on ANC’s Headstart on Tuesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya said “we have brought it as far as we could. Now, with the negotiations with the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], it is going to be most difficult because you are now going to talk about the real meat of the issues.”

These issues had been previously included in the botched Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), she said.

The MOA-AD was a part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the government’s Tripoli Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in June 2001.

Several mineral-rich provinces in Mindanao will supposedly become part of the “Bangsamoro” homeland, where the MILF will have full fiscal, political and religious authority.

The Supreme Court quashed the deal in October 2008 however, saying there was lack of transparency on the part of the government.

The negotiating panel went back to the drawing board thereafter. It had its last meeting this month but was unable to sign an interim pact.

Public engagements

“So what’s going to happen is that there is going to be a need for a lot of consultations, a lot of public engagements, so that people can be involved in discussing the issues,” Abaya said.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) recently held reflective dialogues with various sectors and religions called Dialogue Mindanaw. A survey done showed that very few people understand the issues attached to the peace talks.

“This is the challenge for the new admin[istration]: to engage the people and use the media to help people understand the issues. That way, we can shape a vision of what we want for the future…As we go along the way, we can shape the consensus so we can move in parallel and in unison so that we can make the important decisions,” Abaya said.

For now, there is a consensus for the Bangsamoro to achieve their aspirations, she said.

“The point is how? How do we help them get support for what they want? How do we do it in such a way that it is within the framework of the constitution?” she asked.

Institutional memory

She recommended that Aquino retain at least two members of the current peace negotiating panel.

She said she has already talked to her replacement Secretary Teresita Deles with regard to the matter.

“Kapag palit ng palit, ang mga tao across the table, napapagod na, kasi explain sila ng explain ...so frustrating para sa kanila. So, sana ma-retain yung institutional memory,” she said.

If Aquino decides to overhaul the panel, he should get at least two women as its members, she said.

“I have seen how the presence of the women can change the dynamics of the negotiations. They have something,” she said.