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There will be no signing of the MoA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) in its current form, or in any other form, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza announced during the Kusog Mindanaw conference held last August 28-30 at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City. Kusog Mindanaw has been supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung since 1996.
Kusog Mindanaw is the biggest multisectoral gathering of Mindanao stakeholders, which convenes regularly for the past 13 years to discuss pertinent issues that are involved in peace and development in the Mindanao region.
Dureza, who echoed the statements being simultaneously made by Solicitor-General Agnes Devanadera at a Supreme Court hearing on the MoA-AD, says that the government will be shifting its focus in the on-going Peace Process. From conducting negotiations with armed groups (particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF), the government will instead hold “deep consultations” with various sectors in Mindanao to push for societal reform. Any negotiations to be done with the MILF will only be done in terms of demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration (DDR).
“You do not need to deal with the MILF to reform the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao),” Dureza declared. The MoA-AD has been the subject of major controversy since mid-July.
This year’s Kusog Mindanaw roundtable conference was slated to focus on the theme of Financing Mindanao Requirements for Peace and Development: The ODA and GAA Factors; Rey Magno Teves, Secretary-General of Kusog Mindanaw, stressed the need to examine the effectiveness of foreign aid in the region, and to determine what kind of share in the national budget pie should Mindanao be receiving, and is receiving.
Representatives from several foreign funding agencies, such as the Ms. Emily Mercado from the European Commission, and Mr. Akira Goto from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), outlined foreign development assistance funds and projects being channeled to Mindanao. Officials from the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) also came to outline how the government determines budget figures slated for the region.
However, pressing issues of the MoA-AD and unrest in the region took the forefront in discussions.
The forum also saw renewed recommendations for federalism as the solution to the problems in Mindanao, with a timeframe set for the 2010 elections.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Gen. Hermogenes Esperon also announced that the International Monitoring Team, composed of delegates from various countries including Malaysia and Japan keeping ceasefire agreements in place, will be extending its mandate in the Philippines for three more months.
The conference was attended by several members of government, foreign agencies, local civil society groups, students, and members from the religious sector.