ZAMBOANGA CITY, PhilippinesApr 21, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Anadolu Agency
Apr 21, 2015 12:00 am
The secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has held face-to-face talks with top leaders from the two main Moro Fronts in the southern Philippines. The weekend meetings were the first time that an OIC secretary-general has met the leaders of the country's one-time largest Muslim revolutionary group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and its former ally, the Moro National Liberation Front. The visit was to push forward a peace agreement and subsequent autonomous government in the restive Mindanao. "I am here to show that we are concerned, we are supportive. I am not here just to prove that I am the first secretary-general [to visit Mindanao], I am here for the substance," MindaNews Online quoted Iyad bin Amin Madani as saying. "We wanted to come here. Symbolically, we wanted to be in Mindanao," he added. A statement emailed to Anadolu Agency on Monday said that Madani had formally reaffirmed the OIC's support for the Bangsamoro peace process and expressed optimism over its success, despite the challenges it had faced in the past few months. On Jan. 25, around 400 commandos descended on the Mamasapano township, in Maguindanao province, in the country's Muslim south in search of one of Southeast Asia's top terror suspects, only to run into members of the MILF and splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. In the ensuing gunfight, 44 commandos, and at least 17 MILF members and five civilians were killed. Monday's statement added that Madani had declared after a meeting with the Moro group that the OIC is encouraged by the "sincere desire and the serious effort" displayed by all parties involved in the process. He was quoted as saying that although the people and government of the Philippines will make the final decision on the fate of the process, the OIC hopes it will continue." "We feel - on both sides [the Philippine government and the Moro fronts] - the sincere desire, and the serious effort to reach a conclusion," he said, adding that the OIC remained "optimistic" and "supportive."
Madani, who presided over the meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF), which will serve as the common venue for the discussion of issues and concerns that would affect the Bangsamoro people as a whole, said the group discussed the current legislative process involving the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The law aims to legalize the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the government and MILF in March last year. Randolph Parcasio, a spokesman for the MNLF faction, told MindaNews that the weekend's talks were a "great success... generally fruitful," while MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described them as "very productive." Madani added that there were "convergence points," particularly in the setting up of the joint secretariat for the forum. He said that outside of its present office in Cotabato, it was proposed that the secretariat would also have an office in the city of Zamboanga, a predominantly Christian trading town at the foot of Muslim Mindanao.
Moro youth group member Norton Yaken shouted "No to BBL," as he joined around 20 others on a picket line, where they displayed a tarpaulin saying "No substitute for Bangsamoro Independence." Both sides agreed that the forum is the best mechanism for discussion and exchange of information, and they agreed to continue to exert efforts for the benefit of the peace process. The secretary-general invited the BCF members to hold the next meeting of the BCF on the sidelines of the 42nd Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) to be held in Kuwait on May 27. Before he concluded his four-day visit, Madani paid a courtesy call to President Benigno S. Aquino's office in Manila and underscored the support of the OIC's 57-members for the peace process. The OIC secretary-general said he hoped that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will draw support not only from Congress but also from the Filipino people, and that the proposed law will open the door to a much-sought-after peace in Mindanao. Madani's trip started Friday with an eight-member delegation meeting with the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles. This followed a three-day trip to Malaysia, which facilitated the peace talks.