Posted tagged ‘peace pact’

FOOD DELIVERY UPDATES IN LIGHT OF NEW MILF-PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT HOSTILITIES

August 16, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

Below is a news item regarding UN efforts aimed at helping out in the provision of food for those fleeing residents affected by the latest rounds of conflicts between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). Close to 130,000 residents were already displaced by the hostilities that have not even geared up for full battles.

As already reported, the contentious issue centers on the ‘ancestral domain’ for Muslims. There were not much public debates about the matter, though in Mindanao various sectors were invited to participate in the deliberations prior to drafting. The disagreements regarding content and implementation led the MILF forces to withdraw from the peace talks, and proceeded with occupation of villages by their armed force.

Below is a news item regarding UN efforts to assist in the food supply chain for the fleeing residents.

[13 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

UN begins airlifting food aid to Mindanao

The United Nations has begun airlifting food to Mindanao to avert a major humanitarian crisis as thousands flee fighting between Muslim rebels and troops, officials said yesterday.

 

Fighting continued as soldiers used artillery and helicopter gun ships to pound rebel positions around towns and villages in North Cotabato, a poor farming province in Mindanao.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has begun airlifting 400 metric tons of rice worth $308,000 to assist 90,000 persons from conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato for at least one month.

The food support is WFP’s response to the request made by the provincial government of the province, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) still validating the number of the persons affected by the ongoing clashes.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said more than 129,819 people have been displaced from 42 villages in North Cotabato since fighting began last week.

The refugees are to be provided food support in at least 43 government evacuation centers in the province.

“WFP fully understands that the situation remains fluid, and we will continue to work closely with all concerned to further assess the total number of affected persons and adjust our response accordingly. WFP remains concerned over the growing number of persons displaced by the violence between the armed forces and the MILF,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP country director.

“Many of the affected population are women and children, and we are concerned for their well-being and stand ready to support humanitarian needs. We hope for peace, so that these families can return to their communities,” he said.

Anderson said WFP remains committed to providing support and technical expertise during emergencies and natural disasters.

The NDCC said 43 evacuation centers have been set up for the refugees but these are now overcrowded and fast becoming health hazards.

“This is turning into a humanitarian mess,” Rep. Risa Hontiveros said.

“The refugee crisis is an unacceptable cost of the government’s mismanagement of the peace process. A peace process should lead to the protection of life and property, and yet what’s happening is the opposite,” said Hontiveros, who has called for an immediate halt to the fighting.

Fighting began last week after the Supreme Court ordered the government to suspend plans to establish an extended Muslim homeland in Mindanao.

The decision saw around 1,500 heavily armed renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels take control of mainly Christian villages and towns in North Cotabato.

Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Leila de Lima described the situation in North Cotabato as “serious” and called for an immediate ceasefire.

She told local television that evacuation centers needed urgent supplies of food and medicine for the refugees.

The government has said that the fighting will not disrupt the ongoing peace process and that the Supreme Court decision last week was a “temporary setback.”

Future uncertain

In Pikit, North Cotabato, nine-year-old Rakma Kasanuba sings lullabies to her baby sister as the infant tries to sleep in a makeshift hammock under a guava tree as mortars explode without end in the distance.

Her three other younger sisters sit on the muddy ground guarding their meager belongings while military attack helicopters thunder overhead searching for Muslim separatist rebels 400 meters away in a forested area.

At her tender age, Rakma is a veteran of evacuation camps.

“I don’t know why I am here,” she told AFP. “My family was told by the military to leave because they said Moros (Muslims) were advancing.

“We left at dawn, but my father had to stay behind to protect our house,” Rakma said. “My mother took us here, but she is away to look for food and relatives who were also told to evacuate.”

Rakma and her sisters are among 6,000 people forced to flee their homes in Tacepan, a mixed Christian-Muslim farming hamlet that is one of 22 villages being illegally occupied by a renegade group from the MILF.

In a town’s school, families are tightly packed in small classrooms, with no bedding.

Latrines are overflowing, while goats, cows and other farm animals taken by the refugees crowd the school lawn in a feeding frenzy on what little grass is left.

Though soldiers have been sent to protect them, they are not safe from indiscriminate mortar fire from the enemy side.

Social welfare officer Imelda Balios said urgent appeals for supplies have been sent to the government to avert a bigger humanitarian crisis. – Pia Lee-Brago (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

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OBSTACLES TO PEACE PACT BETWEEN PHILIPPINE STATE AND MUSLIM REBELS

August 14, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Allahu Akbar!

Here is a news report about the obstacles to peace pact’s signing between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The analysis came from a US-based group called the US Institute of Peace.

The involvement of US-based groups in GRP talks with insurgents does attract curiosity of sorts. While I have nothing against internationalizing Philippine insurgencies so as to involve 3rd parties in the talks, involving US-based groups is another thing altogether as it fuels our thesis of Americans’ involvement in the launching of rebel groups here at the behest of the Anglo-American oligarchy.

At any rate, do read for yourself the news below. The same group wasn’t actually allowed to co-facilitate the signing of the peace pact in Malaysia.

Peace be with you!

[05 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

US Institute of Peace says it had warned government about obstacles to peace pact

 

A group calling itself the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) had been tasked by the US State Department to undertake a project to help expedite a peace agreement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from 2003 to 2007 and which supports the establishment of an ancestral domain for the Bangsamoro people.

 

However, after undertaking its Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), the USIP has warned of the obstacles to the inking of a peace agreement between the two parties – the need for constitutional amendments, a case at the Supreme Court, Congress’ disapproval of the agreement and the political weakness and unpopularity of President Arroyo.

USIP is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by the US Congress.

Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide.

The US’s special interest in the GRP-MILF peace agreement is meant to prevent international terrorist groups from exploiting the conflict in the Philippines after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US.

The late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim also personally wrote US President George Bush in 2003 to help resolve the conflict between the government and the Moro people.

The US support for the peace talks with the MILF came during the same period that the MILF, through Salamat, declared that they had renounced terrorism to attain its political ends.

At that time, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that while the “United States absolutely supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines,…we also recognize that the people of Mindanao have legitimate aspirations and some grievances.”

The US government was unwilling to commit financial and economic assistance to MILF areas until an agreement had been signed. The State Department asked USIP to inform it of significant developments, advise on appropriate government responses and if negotiations were not leading to a satisfactory settlement, recommend an end to US engagement.

In a special report published in February of this year and written by G. Eugene Martin and Astrid Tuminez, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, USIP said Mrs. Arroyo expended only minimal political capital to move the peace process forward and that the three branches of government “also lack consensus on the outlines of a deal that may be offered to the Moros.”

Martin was the executive director of the PFP while Ramirez served as the project’s senior research associate. Their special report highlighted the USIP activities in the Philippines from 2003 to 2007. The USIP clarified, however, that the views expressed in the report “do not necessarily reflect the views of USIP, which does not advocate specific policy positions.”

USIP tried but failed to be part of the peace negotiations between GRP and MILF as Malaysia, the host of the talks, had not agreed, but the group had produced and disseminated to educators, journalists and politicians a short video on ancestral domain, tracing the history of Moro grievances and articulating how and why an agreement on ancestral domain could effectively address the roots of conflict.

The video was shown during discussions of Moro ancestral domain in Manila universities, at forums in Mindanao and in a briefing with three Philippine senators.

“Efforts to help the parties think creatively of ways to overcome long-standing obstacles on ancestral domain and to initiate dialogue among disparate Moro ethnic groups made USIP a valuable contributor to the peace talks,” the report said.

There are many hindrances, however, and the USIP said resolving conflict in Mindanao is likely to be an extended undertaking even with the best of intentions from all parties.

“As with past agreements, a serious risk exists that the national legislature could scuttle any agreement signed by the government in the implementation phase. The Supreme Court might also declare unconstitutional any deal on ancestral domain that grants Moro significant political authority and control over natural resources,” the report said.

The report also noted that the ability and intent of Mrs. Arroyo, whose term would expire in 2010, to press the peace process to settlement were also uncertain.

If Mrs. Arroyo makes serious compromises with the MILF or forces significant change in the political and economic dominance of Christian migrants over land, resources and political power in Mindanao, the USIP report said “she could rouse a wave of opposition that might endanger her presidency.”

“Nonetheless, if such an agreement were signed and fully implemented, it would unequivocally augment the president’s historical legacy after nearly 10 years at the helm of Philippine politics,” it said.

The USIP report also said the multiple changes in the composition of the GRP negotiating panel had been a challenge and although GRP negotiators were “well-informed, creative and well-intentioned, they are in many ways unable to influence those at the center of political power and public opinion.”

USIP’s PFP ceased in June of 2007 but the group said the peace process in Mindanao was far from concluded.

The USIP implemented its role as facilitator of the peace process through USIP president Richard Solomon, a former ambassador to the Philippines, who assembled a group of other former ambassadors to the Philippines, the chairman of the USIP Board and a retired general.

The term facilitation signified that the US was not assuming a direct, hands-on mediating role in the negotiations. – Aurea Calica/Philstar