Malaysian Team in the Philippines to Monitor MILF Ceasefire

Peace talks between the Philippines government and Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have hit a new milestone. An international monitoring team is being deployed to oversee a ceasefire agreement between the two parties. Sixty representatives of the Malaysian government – from the military, police and civil service agencies – were sent to five cities across Mindanao in time for Ramadan. They are the first contingent from an International Monitoring Team, tasked with overseeing a ceasefire between the Philippines government and the MILF. “Your presence, gentlemen of the IMT, shall undoubtedly raise our people’s hopes for a ceasefire that shall hold and a ceasefire that shall be respected,” said Dr Abbas Candao of the MILF. Their deployment follows over a year of sporadic skirmishes. The two parties have been trying to forge a peace deal since Gloria Arroyo first became president four years ago. But progress has been stymied by accusations of ceasefire violations, as well as charges that the MILF continues to harbour terrorists. So Malaysia is trying to help push the peace process along as a third-party mediator. Its delegation will soon be reinforced by representatives from other Islamic nations. It is hoped their presence will help pave the way for another round of formal negotiations that could result in an official settlement at last. Silvestre Afable Jr, chairman of the GRP Panel, said, “There is great confidence that we will be able to have a meeting of the minds, because in the first place, we have silenced the guns on the ground.” As always, no specific date has yet been set for the opening of formal peace talks, but with the presence of the international monitoring team, officials say talks will likely begin before year’s end.Full Story

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