Philippines: MNLF-OIC Dialogue Urged to Ease Sulu Tension

Apr. 25, 2007

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel,
Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Arroyo government to
work out with the Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)
the holding of a tripartite meeting as soon as
possible to review the implementation of the 1996
peace agreement.

Pimentel said that the review of the 11-year old peace
accord by representatives of the government, MNLF and
OIC will help stabilize the situation in Sulu and
reassure the Muslim rebels of the sincerity of the
government in addressing their grievances and in
abiding by its commitments under the agreement.

In fact, he said the recent outbreak of clashes
between MNLF fighters under Commander Ustadz Habier
Malik and military troops in Panamao, Sulu could be
traced to rebels frustration over the perceived
government apathy to the MNLFs complaints over the
enforcement of the peace agreement.

Perhaps, Malik and his men would not have attacked a
military outpost in Panamao, triggering the
hostilities, had the government heeded his earnest
appeal for the tripartite review of the peace
agreement in view of the MNLFs claim that the
government has fallen short in complying with its
commitments to improve the economic conditions of
rebels who have returned to the folds of the law,
Pimentel said.

The Mindanao legislator bewailed the governments
reported refusal to accept an OIC proposal for an
early review of the peace agreement. Worse, he said
the government also turned down the OICs urgent
appeal for a ceasefire between the military and
Maliks forces.

An immediate ceasefire, he said, should be enforced to
prevent the peace and development process from being
further undermined.

Moreover, he said the continued fighting has forced
about 50,000 persons to abandon their homes and seek
safety in government evacuation centers.

Pimentel recalled that the tripartite meeting was
originally scheduled to be held in Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia last year but it was postponed for still
unclear reasons.

He urged the government to weigh the repercussions of
its rejection of the OICs ceasefire call in terms of
offending the organization that may cause a backlash
in the relations between the Philippines and the
influential organization, that is composed of 55
Muslim countries.

The Arroyo governments repudiation of the OICs
peace initiatives will certainly not help the
Philippines in its persistent bid to gain observer
status in the organization, Pimentel said.

He warned that the Philippines cannot afford to see
its relations with the OIC and its member-countries
turn sour because they can get back on Philippines in
many ways.

Pimentel said for instance that the Philippines may
lose its advantage in getting its oil supply from
Saudi Arabia, Libya and other oil-producing OIC
member-countries if they feel offended by the Arroyo
governments failure to respond positively to the
OICs suggestion for a ceasefire and resumption of
peace dialogue.

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