MANILA, Philippines—North Cotabato’s provincial board on Tuesday asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to reject the idea of inviting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as an adviser in the Mindanao peace talks.
The conflict in the South is a purely internal issue that can be solved through dialogue among the stakeholders, said Vice Gov. Emmanuel F. Piñol in a statement.
Following a speech from Piñol, titled “Thank You, Mr. Tony Blair, But No Thanks!” the provincial board Tuesday passed a resolution asking the President to drop the idea of involving foreign intervenors in the peace process.
The government panel negotiating a peace agreement with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front earlier suggested that an eminent persons group be created to advise the peace process, to include Blair and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The suggestion was taken up by Malacañang which issued a statement the other day, following a meeting between the President and the visiting Blair, saying that Blair’s “charisma and charm that brought peace to Northern Ireland may be needed to put an end to the conflict in the Southern Philippines.”
“The statement that Blair’s charm and charisma could end the trouble in the South is a perfect example of the jaundiced perspective of our policy makers and peace negotiators of the true cause and root of the problem in Mindanao and the solutions that could bring an end to the conflict,” said a resolution from the 14-man provincial board.
“Signing a peace agreement with the MILF will not end the problem but addressing the roots of the problem that led to the birth of groups like the MNLF and the MILF will bring us true and lasting peace,” it said.
Piñol said the conflict in the South is a result of “deep-seated biases and prejudices between Christians and Muslims which can be healed through education, the failure of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to function, massive corruption in the region, absence of justice and the failure of government to address poverty, deprivation, the lack of opportunities and hopelessness.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. meanwhile said he did not believe Blair, who is now a Middle East peace envoy, would be of much help as the Mindanao conflict was not his field of expertise.
He said Blair should think twice about “coming into the picture” as he noted that the latter’s knowledge of the Mindanao conflict was “peripheral.”
He said Blair would be “overstretching” himself if he agrees to help mediate the Mindanao peace talks. With Christine Avendaño