Accessibility links

Phillipines Chief Negatiator Resigns - 2003-05-09


The Philippine government's chief negotiator in peace talks with the country's largest Muslim rebel group has resigned, reportedly over frustration at the lack of progress in the negotiations.

The head of the Philippine government's peace panel, Jesus Dureza, resigned Friday, saying the government should appoint someone who can devote more time to the task.

Mr. Dureza says in a resignation letter, made available to VOA, that he is leaving because of the current status of the peace talks. He says he wants to devote more time to fighting poverty in the Southern Philippines, as chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

Mr. Dureza has been negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which for 25 years has fought for an independent Muslim state in the South.

The chief spokesman for the MILF, Eid Kabalu, told VOA by telephone that he expects Mr. Dureza's resignation will have little impact on the peace talks.

"If there is impact, it's minimal. It's minimal. After all, the talks have been suspended for more than a year," he said. "And then, also, we observed that Dureza had been bypassed by the administration itself."

Relations between the two sides have deteriorated steadily since the negotiations were suspended last year. They have become especially tense since February, when government troops overran a rebel base near the city of Cotabato, on the southern island of Mindinao.

The MILF responded by attacking small towns and reportedly bombing an electrical power plant in Lanao del Norte province, 100 kilometers north of Cotabato.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the government decided to suspend attempts to restart the talks, after an MILF attack on Sunday that killed 28 people, including 10 civilians.

"We're hoping that the situation would improve, that the other side would show a little more sincerity in dealing with the government, and they would cease their hostilities, especially aimed at the civilian population," added Mr. Bunye.

The government has since offered $1 million for the capture of key rebel leaders, including Mr. Kabalu.

Mr. Kabalu says the rebel attacks are part of what he calls an active defense against the government offensive. He maintains that the talks have not collapsed, but says they must show concrete results.

"The talks between the government and the MILF produce a very pretty result, in terms of agreement reached between the two parties," he said. "The only problem is that it cannot be implemented, truly, on the ground."

The rebel spokesman says the government must implement what has been agreed upon, namely a cease-fire and greater economic aid for the region.

The government says the rebels must stop their attacks, which it calls a form of terrorism.

XS
SM
MD
LG