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Philippine Moro rebels turn down gov't peace proposal


09:21, August 24, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine's Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF negotiators rejected the peace proposal by the Philippine government after reviewing it during the three- day talks between both sides in Kuala Lumpur, government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen said on Tuesday.

"Last night, the MILF studied the proposal and decided that it will be advising its central committee to reject the proposal," Leonen told the press at the Philippines' embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

"It is not unusual in negotiations that one of the parties takes a hardline position on the content of the initial documents of another party," he added, suggesting that the Islamic group did not agree on the framework.

The 20-page proposal contained "three components for a single solution," including massive economic development in Mindanao the region where the group is most active in, acknowledgment of Muslim contributions to the Philippines to facilitate the "healing of the wounds created by war," and a peace accord that would create a Bangsamoro commission to pass legislation concerning the Muslim region.

The MILF had said it wanted greater autonomy for Mindanao with local control over its legislature, courts, police and security in a federal set-up, not "a state within a state" - a request the government, Leonen said, is not ready to comply with.

The government is, however, willing to develop options that both sides can agree upon.

"Our approach is not looking at the final positions but the reasons behind it, reasons behind why the MILF, let's say, wants a substate and we will try to develop options to attend to those reasons but not necessarily succeed to a substate," Leonen said.

"If we just focus on the positions we tend to be entrenched in it and we will end up doing something in the middle that might not interest the parties," he added.

He said the Philippine government also considered commander Ameril Umbra Kato no longer with the Islamist group, after the renegade leader declared his fallout with the MILF over the weekend.

Kato was responsible for a series of attacks and casualties in North Cotabato villages and had led a large group of armed men in latest atrocities in Maguindanao province.

The MILF has not expelled Kato from the group, but it declared him a "Bougat" - an Islamic term for a member who does not obey orders.

The MILF is expected to decide and inform the government on how they would deal with Kato 10 days after the Muslim Eid 'l Fitr festival.

The MILF is the Philippines' largest separatist group responsible for a string of fatal attacks in the country.

They have been fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Mindanao region for several decades.


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