Kenney says US interest is Mindanao peace
|Posted by Manila Mail under Articles/Stories|
MANILA – Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney has denied the United States has bases or is actively involved in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to achieve peace in Mindanao.
In a speech at the National Defense College recently, Kenney said America’s interest in Mindanao is not military bases but a “lasting peace as a way to development and prosperity” of the region.
“No. The United States does not have military bases in the Philippines. We don’t plan to have military bases in the Philippines, not in Mindanao, not anywhere. We have a modern partnership,” she said.
She said the US is in favor of lasting peace in Mindanao but said this “should be done within the territorial integrity of the Philippines. A peaceful Mindanao means increased security, enhanced economic activity, and more investment. A Mindanao that reaches its economic potential is a Mindanao that helps all of the Philippines.”
The envoy said one of the reasons USAID has been actively engaged in the development of Mindanao is because the US wants to see an end to the violence and poverty there, thus giving the young people there the same things that their fellow citizens have such as education, good health care and a future of being a part of the great business growth.
“Who would want those children to have anything less than a great chance at prosperity and peace? It’s one of the reasons that USAID has been working in Mindanao for the past decade. Because there are important opportunities there for economic growth and there are some terrific people, and the next generation deserves more.”
Kenney said the US is “a strong supporter of lasting peace as a way to development and prosperity.”
But she said this must be done by Filipinos who should determine the framework under which peace takes place.
Addressing the NDC leaders, the envoy said: “Filipinos are a wonderful people. They are caring. They are creative. They are kind. They are dedicated. They are known throughout the world for being hard-working and that is the future we want to see here (Mindanao). We look very much forward to continuing to be your partner and your friend as you all – the great leaders in this room from so many sectors – lead us forward to build peace and prosperity for all of our citizens.
In a speech Aug. 19 at a forum on human trafficking, expressed her concern over the the fighting in the region as thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting between the military and the MILF.
“My first thoughts are really for those who were displaced by fighting, the people whose lives had been lost and disrupted, and my heart goes out to them and to their family,” said Kenney.
“It’s my strongest hope that no one sees violence as a way to peace, that the important thing for the Philippines is to find the right framework for lasting peace in Mindanao,” she said.
At least 38 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Lanao del Norte and Sarangani provinces on Monday after hundreds of MILF guerrillas attacked two towns, burning homes, raiding banks and forcing thousands to flee.
The US government, she said, would leave the issue of the Bangsamoro homeland for the Philippine government to resolve since it is an internal issue.
Kenney belied reports that Washington supports the creation of the Bangsamoro homeland and that she had received instructions to influence the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF, particularly on the MOA on ancestral domain.
Although she was among the foreign dignitaries invited to witness the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Aug. 5, Kenney said it did not mean that the US government has any direct interest in the issue.
She stressed that the US government will not withdraw its $25 million development assistance to Mindanao despite the current clashes and the aborted signing of the ancestral domain agreement between the government and the MILF.
Washington, Kenney said, will not abandon the Philippines because of negative developments in the area.
The US ambassador said she remains hopeful that the government and the MILF would be able to return to the negotiating table and settle the 30-year-old dispute.
She expressed hope that “the violence that is currently destroying lives and properties and taking away the prospect of peace and prosperity will go away and all will continue to focus on the importance of peace.”
In a media interview later, the ambassador lauded the efforts of the armed forces and police to restore stability and the rule of law in areas that were recently attacked by some elements of the MILF recently.
She also expressed hope that forces of peace would prevail over those instigating the conflict in the south.
“I remain very hopeful. I think there are a lot of very great people in this country who very much want to see a good and lasting peace for Mindanao and know the benefits it brings to everyone, and I am hopeful that those voices will prevail,” she said.