The Philippine government and the country’s largest Islamic group are moving closer to a deal on defining Muslim ancestral land in the south, Muslim leaders said yesterday.
Talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been stalled since September over the size and wealth of a proposed Muslim region .
“It’s almost in the bag,” said Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman. “The two sides are prepared to resume negotiations right after the dust of the elections settles. We’re close to an agreement on the territory issue.”
The two sides were supposed to hold informal talks on May 1-2 in Kuala Lumpur but the government cancelled the meeting due to local and congressional elections on May 14, Kabalu said.
The Muslim spokesman said the MILF doubted whether a final deal could be reached even after the ancestral domain issue is settled due to government’s firm position to invoke constitutional processes. The MILF opposes any referendum tied to a peace deal, describing the process as the government’s “unilateral” decision.
“The ball is in the hands of the government,” Mohaqher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator, said in a telephone interview, adding the MILF has stood firm on its position to expand the Muslim autonomous region in the south.
“When you deal with the government, it’s not as easy as like buying a carabao (buffalo). We’re just trying to reclaim the right of every Muslims in the south.”
In December, the government peace panel offered to recognise the right of Muslims for self-determination, which it has never done in over three decades of battle.
Initially, Manila has offered to expand the six provinces of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with more than 600 Muslim-dominated villages on the southern island of Mindanao. But, the MILF demanded 1,000 villages to cover Muslim areas as far away as the Davao and Zamboanga provinces.
Last Mod: 31 Mayıs 2007, 18:50