Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sulu sultan rejects plan to put up Mindanao Republic

The influential sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Muhammad Pulalun, has flatly rejected attempts by a secessionist organization to convince his group in the southern Philippines to support a proposal for an independent Mindanao, his spokesman said.

Prof. Sami Tanjil said a former transportation secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, organizer of One People Mindanao, a movement lobbying for a separate Mindanao Republic, was in Zamboanga City early this year and tried, but failed to convince the sultan and his cabinet members to support the proposal.

"Alvarez tried, but failed to convince the sultan to throw his support to the proposal. Sultan Pulalun walked out from the meeting after Alvarez sought his support for the so-called Mindanao Republic."

"The sultan was angry and said that he shall not allow Mindanao to be dismembered and for the Muslims not to be used for political agenda,” Tanjil said.

Pulalun has confirmed the meeting and said he was unaware of Alvarez’s real motives. He said the meeting was attended by cabinet members of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo and advisers.

“I was shocked to learn that he was here to convince us to support this so-called Mindanao Republic, and I walked away. We don’t want any part of this political agenda.”

“We will not allow ourselves be used for whatever purpose other than promoting peace and unity in the southern Philippines,” Pulalun, a staunch supporter of President Arroyo, said.

Pulalun said the Muslims are supporting the government and President Arroyo’s peace and economic agenda in the southern region. “I have told my people to continue to stay united and not to allow themselves be used by any political groups,” the sultan said.

Alvarez previously said that only a separate Mindanao Republic can help solve the problems the island is facing. He said a Charter change, as proposed by lawmakers, would not resolve the current political problems and crisis the country is experiencing.

But many Mindanao leaders are also supporting proposals to convene a Constitutional Assembly in order to allow amendments in the Charter that would institutionalize wide-ranging reforms. The proposal would also limit the agenda of amendments and protect the good provisions of the Charter.

The OPM had been advocating for a separate Mindanao and urged citizens to demand the separation of the region from Manila's administrative control.

It held various consultations for a plebiscite to separate the mineral-rich region from the rest of the country, but Visayas and Luzon islands also threatened to split should Mindanao secede.

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