Gov’t, MILF resume peace talks in Malaysia

Posted at 10/02/2012 3:22 PM

KUALA LUMPUR - Philippine officials and Muslim rebels resumed negotiations on Tuesday in the Malaysian capital in a bid to end a decades-old insurgency, amid hopes a roadmap for peace could be inked soon.

The four-day talks to halt the rebellion in the Philippines' troubled south, which has left more than 150,000 people dead since the 1970s, will discuss an accord outlining steps to finalize a peace pact, officials said.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the government's top negotiator Marvic Leonen have said both sides aim to sign a roadmap by the end of the year.

Manila and the rebels also said there was a strong spirit of cooperation coming into the talks, but conceded many of the issues that derailed previous peace efforts had still not been agreed upon.

Among the toughest points to be resolved are the extent of the MILF's power in an envisioned autonomous region in the southern island of Mindanao, and the exact terms of proposed wealth sharing in that area.

Mindanao is home to vast untapped reserves of gold, copper and other minerals, as well as being one of the country's most important farming regions.

The Philippines' chief adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles said Manila was hoping for an enduring settlement soon.

"We are always hoping and praying for just and lasting peace. Sooner, rather than later," she told AFP in a text message.

Leonen said the officials were "looking at this framework agreement as the over-arching architecture of the peace process".

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamad told AFP a statement was expected to be issued on Saturday at the end of the talks.