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Philippine gov't-MILF peace pact makes history
Publication Date : 27-03-2014
His country is going through a harrowing crisis, but Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is flying to Manila Thursday to witness the historic signing of the final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The Presidential Palace on Wednesday confirmed that Najib will attend the signing ceremonies for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) to be held on the grounds in front of the Kalayaan Hall at 4 p.m. Thursday, citing information from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“We know that Malaysia is undergoing a crisis owing to the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane, [but] Malaysia is fully aware of its international commitments, and we thank them that despite the difficulty that they’re encountering, they have accepted our invitation to grace the signing of the agreement, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a Palace press briefing on Wednesday.
According to Lacierda, Thursday’s event will be the biggest gathering so far for the three-year-old Aquino administration.
“We decided to move it to the Kalayaan grounds where we believe we can hold, in our estimate, over 1,500 [guests],” he said.
The MILF contingent alone is expected to number almost 500, he said. Officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Wednesday said about 500 Muslim Filipinos arrived at the airport in two batches on Wednesday. They were said to be guests of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. The officials said they were told that some were members of the MILF and representatives of the Muslim royal families in Mindanao.
The rest on the guest list include members of the diplomatic corps, congressional leaders, the Mindanao bloc in the House of Representatives, and members of the international contact group and the international monitoring team for the peace talks.
Foreign Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, the DFA spokesman, said Najib’s working visit will push through even as Malaysia is coordinating the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8.
As of Wednesday, a multinational search effort had yet to recover what is believed to be debris from the ill-fated jet. Najib earlier announced that the plane, which carried 239 people, had crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
The DFA did not release Najib’s flight and arrival details.
Malaysia served as the facilitator of the negotiations with the MILF since 2001, hosting negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, the DFA said in a statement. It also heads the international monitoring team observing the ceasefire between the government and the MILF rebels.
Before witnessing the signing, Najib will sit down with President Aquino “to briefly discuss matters of mutual concern between the Philippines and Malaysia,” the DFA said.
Najib last visited Manila in October 2012, to witness the signing of the framework agreement, a crucial initial document in the peace negotiations.
The Malaysian prime minister and Aquino last met during the state visit that the President made to Malaysia on Feb. 27 and 28.
No perceived threats
Lacierda said the signing ceremony would be beamed live from Malacañang. He said a portion of the Kalayaan Hall would serve as a prayer room for the Muslim guests.
He said the Palace was aware of no specific threats intended to disrupt the signing ceremonies.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has placed the entire 148,000 force natiowide on heightened alert for the event.
Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for PNP Director General Alan Purisima, said the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) had been on full alert, the equivalent of red alert in the military, since Tuesday night.
“The NCRPO is also directed to provide mobile cars to foreign ministers who will attend the event and provide civil disturbance management personnel (to guard against) possible mass action and to initiate countermeasures,” he said.
Who will sign
The five-page comprehensive agreement will be signed by members of both negotiating panels. Aside from Aquino and Najib, also witnessing the signing will be Teresita Quintos-Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, and MILF chair Murad Ebrahim.
Signing for the government will be chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, panel members Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao and Mehol Sadain, and consultants Zenonida Brosas and Jose Luis Martin Gascon.
The signatories for the MILF will be Mohagher Iqbal, Michael Mastura, Maulana Alonto, Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdulla Camlian and Antonio Kinoc.
Abdul Ghafar Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator, will also sign as witness, according to Ferrer.
Other Malaysian officials invited to witness the signing include Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, the defense department secretary general and the chief of the Malaysian armed forces, all of whom were to arrive in separate flights Wednesday.
Visiting United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, will also witness the signing.
The dignitaries attending Thursday’s signing also include Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Naci Koru of Turkey, State Minister Maria Bohmer of Germany, Director Salem Ali Othman of Libya, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.
Drafting the basic law
The comprehensive agreement will encompass all the negotiated and signed agreements, including the framework agreement signed in 2012 and the four annexes and addenda that came after.
The agreement will be the basis for the drafting of the basic law or constitution of the Bangsamoro region that will be created for the Muslim minority in Mindanao. The basic law, which is now being drafted by a transition commission, will be submitted for approval by Congress, after which it will have to be voted on in a plebiscite in the regions to be covered by the Bangsamoro autonomous territory to be created by the agreement.