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09 SEPTEMBER 2008
MESSAGE OF H.E. PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO ON THE SITUATION IN MINDANAO
In September 1996, the government and the Moro National Liberation Front signed a peace agreement that sought to end warfare in Mindanao. Because of this, we observe every September as National Peace Consciousness Month.
We are committed to doing everything possible to bring lasting peace to Mindanao and end 40 years of fighting that has killed more than 120,000 people. It is in the interest of all Filipinos, Muslims and Christians, to end the violence that has held that part of our country back. Mindanao can be a bread basket for the country if everyone will support the essential elements to any lasting peace. We remain committed to the peace process in Mindanao.
We have negotiated in good faith with our Muslim brethren to keep the peace these last seven years and to also forge a lasting peace for generations to come. And much progress was made on all fronts until violent elements within the MILF decided to take the law into their own hands. That will not stand. Our confidence was shaken by the wanton violence perpetuated by elements of the MILF. We will not negotiate with a gun pointed at our head. Innocent civilians should not be terrorized for crass political gain. We can restart the dialogue when the area is secure, and our people are safe, and responsible elements in the MILF regain control.
We have refocused all peace talks from one centered on dialogues with rebels to one of authentic dialogues with the communities.
The violence must stop, order must be restored, peace must be our goal. There is no room for wanton violence against innocent civilians. Calmer voices and cooler heads in the MILF must prevail before renegade elements spin further out of control. Continued fighting and war is no alternative to a lasting peace.
The Government is on the side of peace and needs the support of Filipinos, Christians and Muslims alike, if this opportunity for peace is to be realized and if the country is to prosper.
We must now secure peace, order and stability in the region and then reassure all the people that we can then move ahead with any broad-based discussion on the peace process. This includes bringing relief to affected refugees and victims, and bringing to justice those purveyors of violence.
Only through a lasting peace agreement will Mindanao realize its true potential and its promise as a major contributor to its own economic future and that of the country.
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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