NewsNDF, MILF SAY OPEN TO RESUMING PEACE TALKS

NDF, MILF SAY OPEN TO RESUMING PEACE TALKS

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By Manny Mogato
Reuters
Posted at 07/27/2010 7:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The main Philippines rebel groups said on Tuesday they were willing to resume peace talks after an offer from President Benigno Aquino III, but ending insurgencies that have hobbled development remains far from certain.

Since the late 1960s, the Philippines has been fighting two insurgencies by Muslim and Maoist rebels that have curtailed investment in the resource-rich but poor Southeast Asian state.The two conflicts have also killed more than 160,000 people.

On Monday, Aquino said peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim guerrilla group would resume after the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, which starts in August this year.

He also called for a ceasefire by Maoist rebels ahead of re-starting stalled negotiations.

The 4,000-member communist guerrilla group said it was open to resuming talks but rejected calls for a ceasefire before the government took steps towards political and economic reforms that include land distribution and nationalizing industries.

They also repeated demands for the release of some prisoners who were involved in talks that got bogged down six years ago.

“I have long proposed the resumption and acceleration of the peace negotiations, especially with regard to social and economic reforms,” said Communist Party of the Philippines founder and National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, who has lived in exile in the Netherlands for more than 20 years.

“It is unjust for anyone to expect the revolutionary forces and the people to simply cease fire and surrender to a rotten ruling system that shuns patriotic and progressive demands and refuses to engage in basic reforms,” he said in a statement emailed on Tuesday.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), also said the biggest Muslim rebel group was eager to resume talks with government as long as they would eventually lead to a political deal granting Muslims self-determination in the south of the mainly Catholic state.

“We are more than ready to discuss political solutions with the government,” Iqbal told Reuters by phone, saying the 11,000-member MILF was still seeking an agreement that grants them an ancestral homeland in the south.

“The government is fully aware of our position to expand the Muslim homeland and getting a much larger share in revenues from strategic resources, such as oil, gas and minerals. There are no changes in our position.”

Iqbal said the rebel group would also not agree to replace Malaysia as the third party facilitator as well as scrap past agreements and start fresh negotiations.

The peace talks with both the MILF and NDF have been stop-start and acceptable deals remain elusive.

as of 07/27/2010 9:40 PM

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