B’Laan Rep in MILF Panel Asks IPs to Back Floundering Talks

Zamboanga City – THE LONE representative of indigenous peoples (IP) sitting in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel is appealing to ethnic groups to support the on-going Mindanao peace process.

“We are appealing unto them to support the peace process. The IP’s support is equally crucial for the success in the negotiations,” said MILF peace panel technical working group member Dato Antonio Kinoc.

“We particularly appeal to them to participate in the process and know more details about the negotiations,” he told PeaceWorks at the sideline of the Peace Advocacy Forum held in this city last January 5 at the Zamboanga State College of Marines Sciences and Technoplogy (ZSCMST).

The forum was hosted by Muslim-led civil society group Bangsamoro Solidarity Alliance (BMSA). It was part of MILF’s advocacy campaign to inform Mindanao’s populace about the status and other details of the talks. Similar meetings have been conducted in other cities and provinces in Mindanao .

Dato Kinoc, who talked on the “Role of Indigenous People in the Peace Process”, said IPs should know better where they stand and where they position themselves in the ongoing talks.

“They object because they are not fully aware of the benefits they will get from a future agreement,” he said, referring to the IP’s objections to Bangsamoro ancestral domain. It has been one of the major talking points of the peace talks and would define the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro people under the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“They should erase those reservations because when we would be part of the BJE, it would not mean that we will be Islamized or that the MILF will govern us over our land,” he said. He added that “under BJE, all Bangsamoro people have their complete autonomy over their own land and properties.”

“Bangsamoro doesn’t refer to only Muslims but also to non-Muslims living in Mindanao including Christians and IPs,” he clarified. “I belong to the B’laan tribe and I am a proud Bangsamoro,” he said.

The Subanons, a major IP tribe in Zamboanga Peninsula, have expressed formally their objections to inclusion in the BJE, which they claim will only incorporate their lands into a Bangsamoro territory.

“Since time immemorial, the Zamboanga Peninsula belongs to the Subanon people and there is no way that any group will get it from us,” said group tribal council chieftain Timuoy Noval Lambo.

“Respect the ethnic and historical rights of the Subanons on all lands in Zamboanga Peninsula and to, therefore, exclude our (Subanons) communities from inclusion as ancestral lands to be placed under or included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity as contemplated in the propose peace agreement,” stated a separate position letter recently released by the group, which were signed by some 35 tribal and religious leaders all over Zamboanga Peninsula.

However, Dato Kinoc is optimistic the Subanon group and other IP communities in Mindanao will support the process.

“We are not fighting for the MILF here but for Mindanao and Mindanao’s people and only through a united Mindanao – Muslims, Christians, and IPs – can we can win this noble cause,” he told the forum’s crowd of roughly 500 people technology.

“We cannot expect Manila to fight for us but rather our fellow Mindanaons, and the MILF are from Mindanao ,” Dato Kinoc said.

Other speakers during the forum were represented by City Hall executive assistant Amilpasa Bandaying, who represetned Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, Atty. Moh. Mujib Buat, and Hji. Abdullah U. Camlian of the MILF peace

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