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MNLF technical panel ‘walks out’ in final peace agreement talks

BANDUNG, West Java, Indonesia – In a surprising development, a technical panel of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) “walked out” Friday on their counterpart from the government, apparently triggered by the latter’s assertion that Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) was already fully implemented.

Indonesian Ambassador Rezlan I. Jenie, chairman of the Peace Committee of Southern Philippines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC-PCSP), called it a “break” for the meeting.

Jenie said the two panels’ meeting was to resume later in the afternoon, after convincing the MNLF side to return to the peace table.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, a consultant for the government side, made the same assertion.

“It was a mere breakout. It was not a walkout. But anyone is free to call it any term,” said Sinarimbo.

The technical working group (TWG) of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) was composed of Undersecretary Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs (OPAPA); Deputy Director General Zenonida Brosas of the National Security Council (NSC); lawyers Naguib Sinarimbo; and Jose Lorena.

On the MNLF side, lawyer Randolph “Bong” Parcasio; lawyer Omar Yasser Sema; Hatimil Hassan of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF); and Abdul Sahrin, a senior MNLF leader.

Up for discussion of their panels was on the MNLF’s proposal to expand the territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through a plebiscite.

Earlier, the five governors of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) urged the MNLF to present a single voice and strike a peace deal with the Philippine government.

They said without an agreement, the Bangsamoro people and their constituents will continue to suffer.

FPA is the landmark accord signed by GPH and MNLF on Sept. 2, 1996 brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperaton (OIC). It has Phase 1 (political and security) and Phase 2 (socio-economic). (Edd K. Usman)

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