Norway has joined 6 other countries in supporting the peace process in the southern Philippines despite a deadly clash that killed 44 members of an elite police force, at least 17 Muslim rebels, and 7 civilians. “It is now more important than ever to put every effort into the peace process,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende told the Philippines, according to a statement by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, February 11.Brende added: “Armed conflict is a serious threat to development and has negative consequences far beyond the actual battlefield. A lasting settlement in Mindanao would benefit the entire population of the Philippines.”
Norway belongs to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) for the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It also serves as vice chair of the Independent Decommissioning Body in charge of decommissioning the MILF’s firearms.
The peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF aims to end a 4-decade-old Muslim secessionist movement in the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao.
The bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, however, cast doubts on the peace process.
‘Unyielding commitment’ praised
Because of investigations into the clash, for instance, the Philippines’ House of Representatives will no longer meet the March 2015 deadline to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a landmark in the negotiations.
Chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer had estimated that the peace process would be delayed by at least a month, following the Mamasapano clash
The BBL aims to create an autonomous Muslim region more powerful than the one in place.
Despite these hitches, Brende praised both parties for “their unyielding commitment to the peace process.”
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario is expected to discuss the situation in Mindanao, as well as the welfare of 25,000 Filipino seamen, during his official visit to Norway from Wednesday to Thursday, February 11.
Like Norway, 6 other countries – Australia, Canada, Libya, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States – backed the peace process.
In a letter to Del Rosario, Abobaker I.W. Ataweel, charge d’ affaires of the Libyan Embassy in Manila, said he hopes “the people of the Philippines will triumph over this tragic incident and continue the pursuit to attain the peace in Mindanao.”