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PIA Press Release

Palace eyes help of Sweden, Blair on peace negotiations with MILF

Manila (27 August) -- Malacanang is eyeing the possibility of enlisting the help of United Kingdom through former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sweden in the peace negotiations with the seccessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told Malacanang reporters Monday night, that the recent attacks by rogue MILF elements in North Cotabato, Saranggani and Lanao del Norte have highlighted the need to seek the assistance of various sectors, including the international community, in ending the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

She said both Sweden and the United Kingdom, through Blair, have wide experiences in negotiations with rebel groups.

"Actually Tony Blair is willing to come to help us because he played a very strong part in the negotiations with Northern Ireland," the President said.

Sweden, on the other hand, is helping the Philippines in its disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation (DDR) efforts, she added.

She said the government and the MILF peace panels should have more consultations, and "authentic dialogues with the people in the communities" in the affected areas.

In memorandum to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the President said "these dialogues with the communities will be centered on ending all forms of armed rebellion in the country."

By talking directly to the people, she said, "we aim to generate a national consensus against armed struggle as a means of achieving political and social change."

In this regard, the DDR will be the "overall framework governing our engagements with armed groups in peace talks," she said.

"DDR, as espoused by the communities, will be a notice to armed groups of their rejection of armed struggle; and a way of showing that the force of arms does not entitle them to representing our people," the President said.

"Our people, through these engagements, will necessarily make all armed groups accountable to the people and the government for all their actions. In effect, our people, together with government, will be the primary force in defining the shape and direction of societal change, not the force of arms," she added.

On the controversial GRP-MILF memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), the President said the government will assume a supporting role and let credible institutions supportive of the peace effort spearhead the consultations.

She ordered Esperon to provide assistance to the consultations and dialogues that the Bishops of Mindanao and the Ulama League of the Philippines are initiating separately with their constituents.

President Arroyo also authorized the OPAPP chief to enlist the assistance of departments and agencies of government, including government-owned and controlled corporations, to provide active aid and support to this undertaking. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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