Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
2nd Meeting ofthe OIC-GPH-MNLF Tripartite Ad Hoc High-Level Group, held in Bandung, Indonesia
Excellencies from the OIC Secretariat and the OIC Peace Committee for Southern Philippines; Our dialogue partners from the MNLF – I greet you – Good morning. Magandang umaga. Selamatpagi. AssalamuAleykum. Peace be upon us all.
I greet you all on behalf of the GPH expanded Ad Hoc High-Level Group, which is joined at this time by members of our House of Representatives: Cong. Jesus Sacdalan, representing the 1st District of North Cotabato who chairs the House Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation; and the vice-chair of the Committee, Cong. Sandra Sema of the 1st district of Maguindanao. In an unprecedented gesture, we are furthermore joined at this meeting by the elected Local Government Executives of all the five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (in alphabetical order of their respective provinces): Gov. Jum Akbar of Basilan, Gov. MamintalAdiongJr., of Lanao del Sur, Gov. EsmaelMangundadatu of Maguindanao, Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu, and, last but not least, Gov. Sahidula Sahali of TawiTawi. We thank our partners in Congress and from the affected local government units for their very much valued show of support for the efforts of national government to achieve lasting peace and progress in Southern Philippines. The time you have given and the ideas and energies you have shared with our different peace tables truly give us hope that, with all branches and levels of government working together, our people’s aspiration for peace in Mindanao and the entire country will no longer elude us.
Let me also express a message of gratitude to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for having been and continuing to be our faithful partner in the quest for a lasting and sustainable peace in Southern Philippines. We thank OIC Special Envoy Ambassador El Masry for taking the long trip from Cairo to be with us for these two days. The Philippine government deeply values the efforts of the OIC Peace Committee for Southern Philippines in facilitating the review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front. Furthermore, the Philippine Government recognizes the able leadership of the Republic of Indonesia during the negotiations as well as the review of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. We thank the OIC for extending the term of Indonesia as Chair of the PCSP. Indonesia’s facilitation of this review process has been conducted with patience, understanding, wisdom, and a sincere heart. Thank you.
We assure our partners in the OIC that we come to the table determined not to waste time nor to play games. We come prepared to work hard, think creatively, and to talk straight in order to find solutions to the issues that we still face on the table.
We truly appreciate that the OIC has unequivocally recognized our efforts to honor and implement the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. The Resolutions of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) have consistently noted that the purpose of this tripartite process is not to renegotiate the Agreement but rather to review its implementation towards its full compliance by the two parties. We remain committed to this intent. It is why we are here, despite the difficult twists and challenges we have encountered along the way.
Joining me on the main table at this time are Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Executive Secretary, Undersecretary Rafael Seguis of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Undersecretary Jose Luis Gascon of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs, and ARMM OIC Regional Vice-Gov. BainonKaron. Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Deputy Director-General Zenonida Brosas of the National Security Council, and Commissioner Edilwasif Baddiri of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos complete our 2nd row at this time. I will not take the time now to introduce the other members of our delegation who are outside the room.In the next two days, you will get the chance to meet all of the members of the GPH team as each one will take a turn at the main table to vest our positions and interventions at this table with the necessary and appropriate knowledge and competence drawn from their office as well as their long engagement and rich experience in the field. As with our past tripartite meetings under the Aquino government, we come to the table bringing with us the full force of government – from two branches of the national government to regional and further to local government levels – to demonstrate the seriousness in government’s intent, under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, to bring proper completion and closure to a process that has gone on for far too long.
While it seems that it has taken too long for us to meet again after our first Ad Hoc High-Level Meeting held in Solo in June, 2011, the truth is that government has been hard at work making things happen in accordance with the understanding that we reached in Solo to forge partnership between government and the MNLF in pursuit of governance reform in the ARMM. We come prepared to report on the progress we have made and on the steps that we project to lie ahead in the path towards an autonomous regional government that is truly accountable to its people, that will be a good steward of its resources, and one which will put the security and welfare of its inhabitants above all else.
With the postponement and the synchronization of ARMM elections with national elections in May, 2013, President Aquino has appointed the Officers-in-Charge or OIC of the regional government, Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman and Vice-Governor BainonKaron, MNLF veteran fighter, together with her family, and pioneering Bangsamoro woman leader. Gov. Hataman has appointed the core of his Cabinet, including laying the foundations of a satellite office for BaSulTa (constituting the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and TawiTawi) which has drawn in and will continue to draw in more MNLF partisans, onto the straight path (daangmatuwid)of public service exercised as a public trust. Housekeeping and re-engineering of the regional government are underway side-by-side with massive financial infusion for social services and infrastructure being poured into ARMM, including targeted development assistance to consolidate the gains of the MNLF Peace and Development Communities (PDCs), which were constituted following the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
We have asked Ambassador Jenie to allow us to make a presentation of these various undertakings as part of our agenda of the next two days. We hope the provincial governors present will also share their stories and perspectives of the many changes that are happening on the ground. But soon enough – hopefully, before we cross into the second half of this year – we hope to go beyond just telling stories to invite representatives of the PCSP and the OIC Secretariat to visit the area and see for yourselves the transformation that we – national, regional, and local government together – are working to make happen in Muslim Mindanao.
As well, we are very glad to apprise our partners in the OIC that the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front arealso steadily gaining ground, slowly but surely. While very difficult issues still remain on the table, we note that there have been major movements on this peace table, with ongoing negotiations now in the substantive stage, directly engaging issues of political settlement. We have firm basis to hope that a peace agreement with the MILF may be attained within the year. Such achievement, together with the completion of the Implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement ensuing from this tripartite review process, ushers in the hope for the most comprehensive, responsive and enduring resolution of the conflict in Southern Philippines.
In this regard,we wish to express our deep appreciation for the efforts of the OIC,especially the Secretary General,His Excellency Professor Eklemedin Ihsanoglu, in cultivating an enabling environment for more consultations and cooperation between the two Moro fronts that both seek the advancement of the right to self-governance of one and the same people in one and the same homeland.The 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the conversations and gains of the tripartite review of its implementation have definitely helped shape Philippine Government position and approach in the GPH-MILF Peace Talks.Pursuing a convergence approach to peace in Mindanao, we are confident that the results of this OIC-GPH-MNLF tripartite review, together with the culmination of the GPH-MILF peace talks and joined with current efforts to reform and strengthen the ARMM under the stewardship of the OIC regional government, will herald a new chapter in the long and valiant history of the Bangsamoro.
We are proceeding with tempered optimism, knowing how, despite best efforts from both sides of the table, some things can still be hard to predict, some things can still go wrong. But we will persevere because we know that the status quo is not an option. We reject the prospect of continuing armed conflict which divides our families, communities,and nation; which sacrifices the needs of communities and destroys the futureof our youth; which wastes and waylays the rich natural resources and the remarkable human talents with which the Philippines has been bestowed. The costs of war have become too much to bear.
So we come to Bandung ready to work hard, think creatively, and talk straight for peace. We will be ready to speak until our voices grow hoarse from the din of the noise to make our message be heard. We will persevere in search of solutions instead of just criticize and complain. We are ready to face the worst even as, in our hearts and minds, we reaffirm the faith and keep the hope. I have said in numerous fora and conversations all over the country and abroad that I believe – I persist in believing – that on the peace table are miracles waiting to happen. Insha Allah – here in Bandung, may we see the start of a miracle unfolding. This we owe to the people of Mindanao, especially the Bangsamoro, especially all our children – Muslim, Lumad and Christian - and the generations yet to come.
Sukran. Maraming salamat po and good morning to everyone.