President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines surprised many when he covertly met Murad Ibrahim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Tokyo on August 4.
The meeting was a clear step forward in a peace process that has haltingly dragged on for some 14 years. Yet the ripple effects it generated exemplify the intractability of the Moro issue and have added a new sense of urgency to the process.
Although the content of the meeting remains unreported, it is generally agreed that the event was at least a useful trust-building exercise between warring parties struggling to overcome a deep-seated reciprocal distrust. Moreover, in Tokyo, Aquino and Murad opened a direct channel of communication that could prove useful in clearing some of the hurdles ahead.