Press Release
October 20, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said while he welcomed any help the United States might provide in the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), he reiterated that all-out consultations with stakeholders is still the key to a long-lasting settlement in Mindanao.

"The US, or any other foreign country for that matter, can only achieve so much by taking part as honest brokers. In the end, it is really the involvement of all local stakeholders in the process that will ultimately lead to peace in the region," he said.

Officials from the US embassy in Manila met recently with representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Maguindanao to discuss ways how Washington could play a bigger role in resolving the conflict on the island.

Although the US currently provides humanitarian and development aid to conflict areas in Mindanao where poverty is rife, it is also conducting training exercises with Philippine troops battling rebels and extremists on the island.

Figures from the National Statistical Coordination Board indicate that the poverty incidence rate in the country was highest in Mindanao at 38.8 percent compared to 33 percent for the Visayas and 20 percent for Luzon.

The 40-year-old lawmaker also reiterated the need to include in the peace talks all clans and representatives of indigenous peoples from conflict areas as well as local government units He noted the vast amount wasted by government as after nearly 30 years of confrontation as well as the continued internal displacement of people.

Based on data from the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, annual economic losses from the Mindanao conflict from 1975-2002 has ranged from P5-10B, which would equate to a staggering P135-170B for 27 years. "These costs could have been used to alleviate poverty through the construction of infrastructure," Escudero stressed.

The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center has estimated the number of refugees in Mindanao at 600,000, calling it the "biggest displacement in the world."

"The stalemate in Mindanao has gone on for far too long and it is obvious deep feelings of suspicion and hostility remain between and among the various stakeholders," he said.

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