Philippines Adds Year to Ceasefire with Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Hata Wahari
1602-MY-peace-620 Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (second from left) and Philippine government negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer shake hands after signing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (fourth from left) and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, behind Ferrer, applaud, March 27, 2014.

The Philippine government and militant group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) confirmed their “commitment to stay the course of peace” by adding a year to their long-standing ceasefire.

The move came Thursday at the end of a two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur hosted by the Malaysian government and about a week after the Philippine congress adjourned without passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would develop an autonomous region for minority Muslims in the south. The Philippines is a mostly Roman Catholic nation.

The stalled legislation is linked to the March 2014 peace agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), between the government and the MILF rebels. Passage is a requirement for certain aspects of the CAB, including the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants.

The bill was stalled by indignation over the killing in January 2015 of 44 police commandos in fighting that involved some MILF guerrillas, the Associated Press reported.

Government negotiators, led by Miriam Coronel Ferrer, and the rebels, led by Mohagher Iqbal, reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process and “to preserve the gains of more than 17 years of negotiations.”

The two parties agreed to extend the ceasefire until March 31, 2017, and agreed that the best way forward is for early passage of the bill in the next legislative session.

Analyst: BBL will create trust

“What needs to be done is to ensure that BBL can be approved by the new Philippines administration and congress. Once this is done, then the peace process can be run in accordance with the resolution as it creates a sense of trust on both sides, especially among the leaders of the MILF. As long as it is not approved, there will be a sense of unease,” political analyst and Universiti Malaysia Sabah professor Askandar Zimmermann told BenarNews.

President Benigno Aquino III, who oversaw the signing of the 2014 peace agreement, cannot seek reelection later this year. Ferrer and Iqbal thanked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for his continued support of the peace process. Razak attended the 2014 signing at the Malacanan Palace in Manila.

During the two-day meeting, Iqbal warned that the Philippine congress’s failure to pass the autonomy bill this month sparked “widespread frustration on the ground by our people,” the AP reported. Iqbal said the government and the rebels should “jointly find ways and means to address this dangerous situation and avoid actions that may increase the frustrations.”

A certification document signed with the joint statement spells out that the government and rebels will maintain a joint action group whose role will be to “isolate and interdict all criminal syndicates/kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal groups including the so-called ‘Lost Commands’ operating in Mindanao.”

Army troops clashed this week with gunmen in fighting that killed a soldier in southern Maguindanao province, according to the AP. The gunmen, who the soldiers thought were insurgents from another group, turned out to be MILF guerrillas and both sides were taking steps to prevent such accidental clashes, regional military spokeswoman Capt. Joan Petinglay said.


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