MANILA Three foreign diplomats have expressed their optimism on the outcome of the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The three diplomats -- Francesc Vendrell, former United Nations special envoy; Ambassador Nureldin Satti, who was involved in the Somalia peace process; and Dr. Katia Papagiani, head of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) Mediation Support Program -- made their views after they met separately with the GPH and the MILF negotiating panels as well as different sectors of society to share their experiences in resolving conflicts.
Now, there is a good opportunity to achieve peace in Mindanao because of the commitment of the President and the government, Papagiani said during a press conference held at the New World Renaissance Hotel over the weekend.
On the other hand, Satti cited the political will and goodwill which, he said, are present in the (Aquino) administration.
There is a window of opportunity that constitutes a renewed chance for peace and stability in Mindanao, he added.
It is important to bear in mind that more war constitutes more destruction and exacerbates unbalanced development, Satti said.
For his part, Vendrell said he was optimistic about a peace pact to be forged soon by the GPH and the MILF.
The press conference was organized by the HD Centre, an independent international non-government organization giving mediation support and facilitating dialogue to resolve armed conflicts.
It is a member of the International Contact Group (ICG), which was created by the government and the MILF in 2009 to exert the necessary leverage and assistance towards sustaining the trust and confidence of both sides at the negotiating table.
Other members of the ICG are Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and international civil society groups, such as Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyah, and The Asia Foundation.
The three envoys expressed the importance of a peace agreement to resolve the long-drawn conflict in southern Philippines but added that although signing a peace accord is a crucial accomplishment, it is not the end of the peace process.
They said it will take patience and continued efforts by both parties and stakeholders to establish peace and stability in the region.
The ongoing peace talks earnestly being pursued by the government with the MILF are moving towards the crafting of a peace agreement to create genuine autonomy to resolve the Bangsamoro problem.
During the GPH-MILF 24th formal exploratory talks held in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 9 to 11, both parties confirmed constructive discussions on substantive issues.
Both parties clarified their positions, tentatively identified areas of common ground and agreed to consult with their principals on outstanding issues.
The next round of talks will be held this month but no date has been set.
During the talks last month, Marvic Leonen, GPH chair, said that the Aquino administration wants to see the solution to the Bangsamoro question in motion when it leaves in a little over four years time.
He called on the MILF to meet the challenge of crafting an agreement soon enough, so that it could be implemented and then assessed and then adjusted before the term of the next President of the Republic.
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said the government is resolved to end the decades-old armed conflict in the south.
The Aquino administration has the intense desire to have a signed agreement (with the MILF) as soon as possible, hopefully before 2013 or the midterm, she said during a regional peace forum last month in Malaysia.
Otherwise, she said, we will run out of time for properly implementing what we have signed.
We will persevere because we know that status quo (of existing armed conflicts) is not an option, Deles said, adding that we will continue to toil in the search for peace.
The bottom line is that ending all internal armed conflicts in the country will not be easy, but it is something that we will not let go, she said. (PNA)