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PIA Press Release

GRP-MILF agrees to take up ancestral domain issue in formal talks next year

by Rutchie Cabahug-Aguhob

Cagayan de Oro City (21 November) -- The 14th exploratory talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panels successfully ended with the resolution of outstanding issues on the territory strand of the ancestral domain aspect.

This is conveyed by the joint statement signed Nov. 15, 2007 by Chairpersons Rodolfo C. Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal of the GRP and MILF Peace Panels, respectively, who opened the talks in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 14, 2007 after a 14-month lull in the GRP and MILF peace negotiations.

"Building on the progress attained during a previous month's special meeting with both sides affirming all previous points of consensus on the core items of the territory issue, both panels achieved significant headway in defining key principles relating to maritime domains," the statement also said.

Both panels agreed the successful outcome of discussions clears the way for drafting the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain which will be among the agenda during the formal peace talks set early next year.

As recalled, during the 12th round of the GRP-MILF exploratory talks also held in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, both panels acknowledged that more work had to be done on the strand of territory, particularly in the determination and delimitation of areas to be placed under a prospective Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

A joint statement, signed by Iqbal with Silvestre C. Afable, Jr., who at the time headed the GRP panel, said they have achieved significant progress in defining the concept, sharing of resources and establishing governance in the BJE but were however held back from reaching full consensus by the highly technical nature of discussions on the delineation and demarcation of territory.

Meanwhile, the current limited tenure of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) was discussed by Garcia and Iqbal who decided to jointly appeal to the Malaysian Government to extend the IMT personnel's tour of duty as well as expand their areas of coverage.

Both sides also agreed to immediately renew the interim guidelines of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for a period of one (1) year beginning Nov. 16, 2007.

Also considered and accepted were the offer of the Government of Canada to join the IMT, as well as, the proposal of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (Foundation Suisse de Deminage-FSD) subject to the final determination of the terms of reference by the Joint Ceasefire Committees.

Likewise, both panels thanked Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi of the Malaysian Government for his continued assistance in keeping the peace process on track, and to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her continued support in pushing forward the Mindanao peace process. (PIA 10) [top]

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