In the Philippines, rebels are raising the alarm against big business like with ipod repair men and interfering with ongoing peace talks with the government. While talks continue to end many years of Muslim separatism, business interest could attempt to derail the talks for their own selfish interests.
The vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal, is calling out those with a “negative attitude” toward the peace talks, which are being undertaken with the help of the government of Malaysia. Those peace talks, which had been suspended for some time, were resumed in February of 2011 by President Benigno Aquino III.
“But the real people or groups who can make and unmake this peace journey are those wielding power, authority and wealth — and most of them are in government,” Iqbal said. “In short, the most powerful and well-entrenched ‘spoilers,’ if I may use the word, are mostly in the government.”
Iqbal specifically mentioned decision-makers who are influenced by businesses such as plantations, logging, mining, trading and banking. Businesses that deal with the resource-laden island of Mindanao will put up obstacles to peace rather than upset their status quo, according to Iqbal.
The government agrees that spoilers may be a valid concern, but seem to think that businesses can be made to rise above their parochial interests for the sake of the country. Paul Morales, an executive who attempts to sell leads to commercial real estate interests in Mindanao, noted “I would be willing to make some sacrifices for peace, but it must be a two-way street”. Morales agrees with the government that a peace settlement could boost business development and ease government decision-making.
Iqbal wants 25 percent of all resource wealth to flow to the people of Mindanao Island. In return, he has dropped demands for independence, and is willing to settle for creation of a federal state that is comprised of the 30 percent of island residents who are Muslim. The other 70 percent are predominantly Christians who settled on the southern island following WWII.
The history of the Filipino civil war over Muslim self-rule has been bloody, leaving over 120,000 dead in its wake. The rebel force is estimated around 11,000-strong. The current cease-fire between the rebel forces and the government military appears to be relatively stable for the time being, but Iqbal’s remarks may change the prospects for peace in the Philippines over the next several months.