MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) —The Philippine government clarified Wednesday that the 5 million pesos (116,000 U.S. dollars) that President Benigno Aquino III gave to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was intended to jumpstart the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), dismissing news reports that the fund was used by the rebels to buy guns and ammunition.
“The 5 million pesos is a commitment made by the previous administration. It is intended to fast-track the establishment of the institute,”government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen explained.
Leonen said the government would remain steadfast in finding a peaceful solution to the armed conflict.
“We will not let false reports undermine the peace process. I urge the public to stay heedful of what is happening and analytical of the information that they receive,”he underscored.
The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute is a training center for Bangsamoro leaders and managers who will be serving their communities in the future.
Leonen said he handed the 5-million peso check to MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim during the parties’last round of formal exploratory talks on Aug. 22-23 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was announced during the Aug. 23 press conference held by the government panel following the meeting in the Malaysian capital.
Leonen related that the establishment of The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute was discussed during negotiations at the 10th Formal Exploratory Talks in February, 2006. It was finalized and formally agreed upon during the 14th formal exploratory talks held on Nov. 14-15, 2007, with funding commitment from the Philippine Government to jumpstart the institute’s operations.
He added that Aquino approved the appropriation for the institute during the consultation with the panel early this year.
“During his one-on-one meeting with MILF chair Murad in Tokyo last August 5, the president again expressed his support to the BLMI. He then instructed the peace panel to hand the check to the Moro group,”said Leonen.
Calls for an all-out war were made by various sectors after 19 government soldiers were killed in a bloody clash in the southern Philippine province of Basilan last week.
The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades to establish a self-rule Muslim sub-state in the south of the predominantly Catholic country. Peace talks between the government and the MILF stalled in August 2008 following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. A final peace deal with the government will touch the issues of autonomy and the civil settlement of the rebel group’s 11,800-strong guerrilla fighters.