The comments came as thousands attended a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) gathering at their camp in the troubled southern island of Mindanao, including heavily armed fighters and government peace negotiators. MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said despite the slow pace of talks his group remained committed to the negotiations. "It is sad... that even though the MILF has drastically scaled down its position, negotiations with the government are moving at a snail's pace," he told MILF supporters.
"The Philippine government is not too inclined to solve the armed conflict but (wants) to manage the armed conflict to a level where it can... rule the (Muslim people) and exploit the resources of (their) homeland." Murad said he hoped the government of President Benigno Aquino would be different from previous administrations. "It is only when negotiations fail that we will consider all other options that may be available," he said without elaborating.
MILF vice-chairman Ghazali Jaafar said the 12,000-strong rebel group was still seeking self-determination for Muslim Filipinos and not just a halt to the fighting. "Because of the very extensive and lengthy negotiations, other (MILF) leaders view the negotiations with uncertainty," he added.
The MILF has waged a rebellion for more than three decades, originally for the establishment of an independent state in the southern third of the mainly Catholic Philippines. The conflict has claimed up to 150,000 lives.
Peace talks have been going on for about a decade, but have been frequently bogged down by deadly clashes with both sides accusing each other of violating a ceasefire. In recent years the MILF has dropped its bid for full independence in favour of autonomous control over large areas in Mindanao, which it claims as an "ancestral domain for Muslims.
ASIA PACIFIC NEWS | 7 July 2012