Press Release
August 30, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Arroyo government to resolve as early as possible the contentious ancestral domain issue in the peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and not be content that the mutual ceasefire in Mindanao has been holding.

Pimentel expressed disappointment over the failure of the government and MILF negotiators to settle the issue of expanding the territorial coverage of the "BangsaMoro Juridical Entity" during "secret" talks in Cyberjaya in Selangor, Malaysia last Monday.

He noted that the latest round of talks yielded no significant results except an agreement by both sides to extend by another year the deployment of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) in conflict areas in Mindanao to ensure compliance with the ceasefire accord.

The tour of duty of the 60-man IMT, composed of peace-keeping contingents from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan is supposed to expire tomorrow (August 31).

Pimentel deplored the apparent indecision of the government to work out with the MILF, a pragmatic and acceptable compromise on the ancestral domain issue, causing the negotiation to drag on indefinitely like a ship sailing on the high seas without clear direction.

"The prolonged deadlock over the ancestral domain issues is intolerable. Disagreements over the issue caused the suspension of the talks since September, 2006. But when government and rebel negotiators resumed talks last Monday, the stalemate remains. It is as if the negotiation is not making any progress," the senator from Mindanao said.

Citing reports from both sides that the territorial issue was only "lightly discussed" during the Cyberjaya talks, Pimentel said it was obvious that the government came ill-prepared to tackle the subject.

He said the government should have exerted greater efforts in resolving the ancestral domain issue to remove the last stumbling block to the forging of a final peace agreement in the face of volatile situation in Sulu and Basilan where fierce skirmishes between government troops and rebels-terrorists are going on.

Pimentel said the government should not overlook the fact that the peace talks with the MILF have stretched for an inordinately long period of more than 10 years.

"For as long as there is no final peace accord between the government and MILF, the law and order situation in the Muslim provinces in Mindanao will remain unstable while investors will continue to shy away from these areas to the detriment of the local populace," he said.

Pimentel also maintained that Muslim insurgency and secessionist moves will be a recurring problem in Mindanao unless the government formally proposes genuine autonomy in the form of the adoption of a federal system of government as a long-range solution.

"The talks should go on and should already cover specific offer of the adoption of the federal system of government whereby 10 component states would be created in the entire country, including a BangsaMoro federal state," he said. -o0o-

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