Government optimistic on peace negotiations

The Aquino government is upbeat on fulfilling its commitment to forge a final comprehensive peace accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before 2016, according to state officials involved in peace talks with the MILF.

''There should be no worry about the administration's commitment to sign a final pact with the MILF within the office term of President Aquino III. We do not see or feel even an iota of doubt about such agreement signed before 2016,'' an official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) told the Manila Bulletin yesterday.

The official, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak for the agency, heeded a request by the Manila Bulletin for a comment on a recent MILF Web site posting in lieu of OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quinto-Deles, who could not be reached as of press time yesterday.

An editorial in the, the MILF's official Web site, the Moro front hinted at a glitch in President Aquino's reported request for the postponement of the March 25 to 27 regular talks of the two peace panels in Kuala Lumpur.

Instead of formal talks, the two parties held a ''special meeting'' to discuss the composition of the Third Party Monitoring Team and the Independent Commission on Policing, the convening of the Transition Commission this week, and the Terms of Reference of the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro, according to a joint statement of the state and MILF panels.

''The urgency of concluding the peace talks (before 2016 as pledged by the Aquino government) is in the minds of the MILF leadership. We know the momentum is there but any dilly-dallying is bringing us closer to the other path (of violence),'' the MILF said in its Web site editorial.

''The truth is that if we cannot close this negotiation successfully during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, we do not know what lies ahead in 2016. And more seriously, it can be a menu for more violence and fighting in Mindanao,'' the MILF added.

The MILF editorial was uploaded on March 24, after the postponement of the 37th formal talks in Kuala Lumpur was announced.

It said the ''devastation'' wrought by the war in Mindanao was the reason the MILF peace panel ''refused to agree to postpone the peace negotiation in Kuala Lumpur, as set by the parties, or much more to change the venue.''