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Friday, August 15, 2008

MILF sought U.S. intervention in peace talks with Philippine Govt.

This is from the Inquirer. The MILF has been cagey in relationships with the U.S. The MILF has managed to keep itself off the U.S. list of terrorist organisations in spite of its conflicts with the AFP and what appear to be links between some of its commanders and radical groups that are on the U.S. list. As this article notes there is considerable suspicion of U.S. involvement in the Philippines. Perhaps the U.S. thinks that a peace agreement will stop the drift of separatists towards more radical organisations. This may happen and it may very well further isolate the more radical organisations. But this could cause them to increase violent attacks.

SAYS US GROUP:MILF sought US intervention in peace talks with RP gov’t
By TJ BurgonioPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 21:12:00 08/15/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front asked the United States' help in securing an “equitable peace agreement” because of its strong influence over the Philippine government, according to the US Institute of Peace (USIP).
The late MILF chairman Hashim Salamat requested US support for the peace process in a January 2003 letter to President George Bush, USIP said.
The USIP, in a February 2008 special report on Mindanao peace, said Salamat's request for US help was based on the belief that it had “strong leverage” over the government for the conclusion of an “equitable peace agreement.”
“Its leaders and other Moros frequently stated that unless the US government became involved and used its influence to persuade the GRP to implement a fair settlement, the talks would not succeed,” it said.
The government panel, on the other hand, held a different view then, and wanted the US to use the threat of designating the MILF as a terrorist organization to pressure the separatist group to agree to a quick settlement, USIP said.
“Without question, the US government could and must take an active lead role in any peace process in Mindanao,” it said, citing US special relations with the Philippines, security interests, and investment in development projects.
The US' role in the peace process has come under a spotlight amid the furor over a government deal with the MILF expanding the Bangsamoro’s territory in southern Philippines.
The memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, whose August 5 signing was halted by the Supreme Court, was seen as a concession to the separatist group to give up its fight for a separate Bangsamoro state.
Representative Satur Ocampo and University of the Philippines law professor Merlin Magallona had claimed that the US had been actively involved in the peace process through USIP.
Ocampo, a party-list lawmaker, further charged that the US prodded the government into forging the controversial agreement with the MILF.
In its website, USIP says it was tapped by the US State Department in 2003 to undertake a project to help expedite a peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
Through the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), the Institute held meetings with government officials and MILF leaders, and hosted workshops on ancestral domain, and trainings on conflict management for all stakeholders.
This lasted from 2003 to June 2007. In the special report, which is a summary of the project written by G. Eugene Martin and Astrid S. Tuminez, USIP said that while it was in close touch with the State Department, it kept a “degree of separation” from official policy channels.
After the project was introduced in 2003, President Macapagal-Arroyo and the government welcomed the institute's engagement, but appeared to have reservations and lack of understanding of its “quasi-official, track-one-a-half role',” according to USIP.
“Some Moro and non-Moro leaders and civil society activists assumed that USIP was a Central Intelligence Agency front organization whose true objective was to infiltrate the MILF...,” it added in the report titled “Toward Peace in Southern Philippines.” But over the years, the project built sufficient trust among most Mindanao leaders and observers, and affirmed the institute's status as a “track one-and-half, non-partisan player,” USIP said.
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