Press Release
August 31, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Arroyo government to heed the suggestion of Mindanao leaders for Malaysia to be replaced by Indonesia as mediator and facilitator of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Pimentel said he agrees with the assessment of the Mindanao leaders - representing various sectors of society - that Malaysia has been ineffective in brokering the peace negotiation because of its unresolved territorial dispute with the Philippines over Sabah, or North Borneo.

This view was articulated by the Mindanao leaders during a Senate defense committee hearing on the peace process and the problems confronting it held in Zamboanga City over the weekend.

"We do not want to disparage the role of Malaysia. But undeniably, Malaysia has some conflict of interest because the Sabah issue has remained unresolved. The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu are still pursuing their proprietary claim to Sabah with the support of the Philippine government," Pimentel said.

With Malaysia as third country facilitator since the Arroyo government began negotiation with the MILF about nine years ago, he said it is very disappointing that no final peace agreement has been concluded.

In stark contrast, he said the Ramos government was able to hammer out a peace accord with the Moro National Liberation Front, led by Nur Misuari, after about three years of negotiation that was brokered by Organization of Islamic Conference through a committee of the eight, chaired by Indonesia.

"Malaysia may not be free of any suspicion of bias in terms of the unresolved conflict in Muslim Mindanao. If we really need a foreign peace broker, I think we should consider Indonesia because it has always been a friend of the Philippines," Pimentel said.

The senator from Mindanao noted that even Malacañang began to harbor reservation about keeping Malaysia a facilitator when it announced in the past months that it was looking for another country or foreign organization that can take the place of Malaysia in the inordinately prolonged peace talks.

Unless a truly neutral country like Indonesia is tapped to mediate the conflict, Pimentel said it is not far-fetched that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's term of office will end next year without a peace settlement with the MILF being consummated.

At the rate the peace process is going, Pimentel dismissed as "wishful thinking" a recent statement of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Avelino Razon that the administration aims to sign a peace agreement with the MILF before President Arroyo steps down from office next year.

Should that happen, he said the failure of the peace talks would be considered as of the greatest failures of the Arroyo government.

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