Bangsamoro deal signed by March
Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are likely to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro by early March, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said yesterday.

Deles was guest speaker at the opening of the 3rd Sagayan Festival in Buluan, Maguindanao.

She discussed the status of the peace process and urged the people of Maguindanao to vote for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The MILF, for its part, called on lawmakers not to water down the propsed basic law.

“It is Congress, as part of the entity called GPH (Philippine government) that the MILF is talking to, now holds the key to solving the Moro question by way of making a good legislation, without watering down the contents of the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and the four Annexes signed by the parties,” the MILF said in a statement over the weekend.

The envisioned core territory covers the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Once ratified by Congress, the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be submitted to a plebiscite in the covered areas of Mindanao to replace the ARMM.

Deles narrated that President Aquino has informed the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body tasked to draft the basic law, that he wants it to be finished and submitted to him by March 31.

She said the President wanted the draft immediately submitted to Congress, marking it as a priority bill of the administration.

“We’ve already come this far, so let us all support this peace process. The negotiations were difficult in adherence to the order of the President to learn from the lessons of the past and that everything must be within the ambit of the Constitution,” Deles said.

“The important thing on the part of the government during the negotiations was that it was guided by the principle not to make promises it cannot deliver politically, economically and culturally,” she added.

Deles informed the crowd that members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, chaired by MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal, recently met the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives separately to ask for their support for the bill.

She said Congress leaders have agreed to make the proposed Bangsamoro law a top legislative agenda and targets its approval on or before Dec. 31.

The MILF noted President Aquino has committed to make the Bangsamoro Basic Law a priority legislation and Congress has agreed to make it a top priority.

“It is this good sense of Congress clearly exhibited in December 2012 when it endorsed President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 120 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the statesmanship of every congressman and senator to ensure the smooth passage of a good legislation that would finally put to rest the centuries of restlessness in Mindanao.

“It is their collective wisdom that we can bank on for the passage of this good legislation,” the MILF said.

The MILF said coming up with a new law that will regain the Moros’ governance over its ancestral lands in Mindanao will be the real success of the more than 17-year negotiations that the government and the MILF have been engaging in.

It said the southern peace process could not afford major disagreements that would lead to the failure of the peace agreement.

“Frankly, there is no way these negotiations can be done again; human endurance would not allow it, and more importantly, the engagement is now in the final stretch. It is only a matter of time, God willing, before the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will be signed by the parties,” the MILF said.

The government and the MILF peace panels recently completed and signed the last document that will complete the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The comprehensive agreement will include the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its four annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Power Sharing and Normalization, together with the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters.

“The Annex on Power Sharing is the heart of the peace agreement. If there is no air, the heart is useless; it needs lungs, which is the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing. They are vital elements for the Bangsamoro government to work,” Deles said.

Deles told the audience that the eyes of the world are now focused on the Mindanao peace process, referring to the interest shown by the international community.

She said investments are expected to pour in to the Bangsamoro region and the rest of Mindanao as a result of the Comprehensive Agreement.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the blessings would be in the form of more public investments in the region especially with the expected finality of the Comprehensive Agreement.

Hataman said additional infrastructure would help ARMM better prepare for the transition to the proposed Bangsamoro entity.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, on the other hand, said the government is pushing through with its offensives against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the group that has vowed to oppose the peace deal with the MILF. – Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado

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