Philippines seeks help of UK and Sweden in peace talks with MILF

Gloria needs all the help she can get. Unless things start to cool down a bit on the ground any peace talks may be a bit premature. No doubt the MILF will not agree to start laying down their arms until they have an agreement they can live with and that may be some time if it is even possible at the present juncture.


Gloria seeks help of UK,Sweden in peace talks
BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
PRESIDENT Arroyo is seeking the help of Sweden and the United Kingdom in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Brunei is also offering scholarships for MILF members and their families to enable them to "learn to moderate Islam," Arroyo said in an informal interaction with media Monday night at the Well Being Spa at the Clark Freeport Zone.
Arroyo cited the experiences of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in talks with Northern Ireland.
"Actually Blair is willing to come to help us because he (played) a very strong part in the negotiations of Northern Ireland, although Sweden is helping us on the DDR side," she said.
She said Sweden in 2005 came up with the Stockholm Initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) which aims to "contribute to a secure and stable environment in which an overall peace process and transition can be sustained."
The President said an invitation to Blair, whom she met during her visit to London in December 2007, has yet to be sent.
Peace talks with the MILF were disrupted this month by major attacks launched by rebel commanders in several parts of Mindanao, including Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
A memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF, seen as a major breakthrough in the talks, was to be signed August 5 but the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order based on petitions questioning the constitutionality of the MOA.
Arroyo said the MILF attacks, which included atrocities against civilians, led to a change in the basic premise of the peace efforts. She said the government is now focusing the talks "from armed groups to the community" through public consultations.
Arroyo clarified she is not setting the disarming of MILF members as a precondition to the peace talks. But, she said, she wants the government and MILF panels to start tackling the DDR, particularly the disarmament aspect, when negotiations resume.
"It’s not a precondition, but part of the outcome of the talks. Part of the comprehensive agreement," she said.
Senate President Manuel Villar urged government to advance the internal revenue allotment funds of towns badly affected by hostilities in Mindanao.
"Towns, cities and provinces hit by MILF attacks are being saddled by unforeseen expenses caused by unforeseen events," he said.
Villar said towns need money to "care for the wounded, aid the displaced, bury the dead, rebuild homes, heal psychological wounds, construct damaged public infrastructure and other things needed to make things normal again."
For starters, he said the national government can release part of the P2-billion calamity fund to areas hit "by this man-made calamity."
This can be complemented by funds to be taken from the P800 million contingent fund, which is under the discretion of the President to release, he said. – With Dennis Gadil

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