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The following is the press statement issued by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on the standoff between AFP and MILF forces in Zamboanga City. Zarate hails from Davao City and is an advocate for peace in the Moro areas.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate calls for sobriety to both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as they reached a military standoff in Zamboanga City today and ensure the safety of the civilians.

Representative Zarate appeals to the MNLF and the AFP to adhere to the international humanitarian law in their engagement and ensure the safety of the civilians.

Fighting continues between the AFP and the MNLF and displaced more than 300 civilians in four barangays in Zamboanga City.

Zarate calls on the President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to review its peace track with the MNLF and answer questions as to what led the MNLF to mount a military presence in Zamboanga City and MNLF chair Professor Nur Misuari’s announcement last month for Mindanao independence.

Zarate said the Philippine government cannot ignore Misuari and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) while negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the new autonomous government entity for the Bangsamoro.

“The peace policy of President Aquino should not be divisive and exclusive. It should not leave out a legitimate group just to appease another group. This is no way of talking peace in Mindanao,” said Zarate.

Zarate says that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has a lot to answer in the coming budget deliberation, for while it reports progress in the peace negotiation, the situation in the ground tells otherwise.

The Mindanao lawmaker is reacting to media reports stating that the Philippine government has terminated negotiations with the MNLF and relegated it to mere discussions on implementation review of the 1996 GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement by the tripartite party facilitated by Indonesia as the chair of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) peace committee in Southern Philippines and including both GPH and MNLF panels.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Aquino III made mention of his administration’s success in brokering the wealth-sharing annex for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but did not mention the status of talks with other groups such as the MNLF and the National Democratic Front (NDFP).#

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