Zambo incident involving MNLF won’t affect GPH-MILF peace talks

KORONADAL City–The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) remained optimistic on the prospects of signing a final peace deal with the government as Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) elements clashed with government troops in Zamboanga City, an MILF official said on Monday.

MNLF forces loyal to Nur Misuari, MNLF founding chairman, have held hostage scores of civilians after clashing with soldiers. The MNLF members reportedly started arriving in Zamboanga City Sunday evening as part of the advance party of Misuari, who openly voiced opposition to the ongoing GPH-MILF talks.

MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq said the development in Zamboanga City “would have no bearing whatsoever with the ongoing peace talks involving the government and the MILF.”

“We are very confident that our peace talks is unstoppable as what the GPH (government) peace panel said before. Tuloy-tuloy na ito,” Al Haq said in a text message.

He also stressed that MILF troops have remained loyal to their chain of command and have not defected to the MNLF.

Late last month, the government and the MILF concluded the 39th round of formal exploratory talks on a positive note, resolving several issues on the two remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization.

In a joint statement, the parties said they have achieved “substantial progress in the discussions towards finalizing the Annexes on Power Sharing and Normalization to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).”

Both sides earlier agreed on the annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities and on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing.

The incident in Zamboanga City happened on the eve of the resumption of the GPH-MILF peace talks.

The talks will resume on Tuesday, Sept 10, and is scheduled for 10 days because both panels want to finish the remaining two annexes.

The government and the MILF peace panels hope to sign the comprehensive peace agreement within the year.

Under the FAB, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be replaced by the Bangsamoro government, targeted to happen in 2016.

In the face of the siege launched by the MNLF in Zamboanga City, ARMM executive secretary Laisa Masuhud Alamia said the regional government is on security alert status.

ARMM Governor Mujiv S. Hataman has advised authorities and local government units in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to heighten security in their respective areas and help guard against the movement of suspicious groups, she said in a statement.

“We also condemn in the strongest possible terms this act of violence and the use of some people as human shield while we continue to pray for the safety of civilians in this unfortunate incident,” Alamia said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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