MANILA STALLING PEACE TALKS

Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

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Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said that MILF will not return to negotiations until Manila backtracks on its unilateral amendments of previous agreements. He added that the government’s failure to meet its obligations risks nipping in the bud efforts to bring a closure to the conflict in the Muslim-dominant southern island of Mindanao. The Malaysian-brokered peace talks between MILF and Manila broke down last month. MILF has been calling for a regional government in the southern region of Mindanao and a greater control over the region’s economic resources. Manila said that the constitutional framework and processes will be observed as a requirement in sealing any peace agreement. It proposed drafting constitutional amendments to allow the creation of a federal homeland for Muslims in the south. But MILF rejects taking the Constitution as a benchmark for peace talks insisting that all sovereignty-based conflicts such as in Mindanao, Kosovo, Ireland, Sudan and Western Sahara are extra-constitutional in character. MILF accuses Manila of veering away from previous agreements on the issues of concept, resources, territory and governance of ancestral domain, communal land that Muslims lost when the colonial government introduced a system of land titles.