Government may need more time to pass BBL, Duterte says

Government may need more time to pass BBL, Duterte says
President Duterte holds the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law during a turnover ceremony at Malacañang on July 17.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Moros should give the government more time to thresh out their concerns if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law does not hurdle Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte said, as he stressed that he does not want to declare a war against fellow Filipinos. 

Duterte assured Muslims that his administration is pushing for the passage of BBL, which seeks to create a new Bangsamoro political entity with greater political and economic powers. However, the failure to enact the measure should not lead to a conflict, the president added. 

"If perchance, if nothing really works out with the BBL, then give us time because I do not want to fight. I do not wage a war against my own countrymen. I really don't want to," Duterte said during the celebration of Eid'l Fitr celebration in Davao City last Saturday.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has not threatened to go to war if BBL is not passed into law, but has warned that failure to pass the law, which will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in 2014, could add to the frustration in the region and fuel extremism.

The MILF did not go to war the last time that the BBL failed to hurdle Congress. 

"That is why and despite my behavior, sometimes I lose my temper. But when it comes to Mindanao, I've always been trying to use and appease the methods," the president added. 

The House of Representatives and the Senate passed their respective versions of the BBL last month. The two chambers have to reconcile their drafts before the measure can be submitted to the president for his signature. 

READ: Duterte: Pass BBL or 'I might just resign'

Duterte hopes for Misuari's cooperation

Duterte is hopeful that he could convince Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari to join the discussions on the BBL. 

"We will try to pass the BBL. I hope Chairman Misuari can be convinced to join the talks so that if there are corrections or maybe additions, or provisions that would 
not sit well with Tausug and the rest of the southern part of Mindanao, then maybe we can realize altogether the friction of the MI (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), MN 
and the rest of Mindanao," the president said. 

A Moro National Liberation Front faction affiliated with Misuari laid siege to Zamboanga City in 2013 over fears that previous peace agreements would be set aside in favor of the CAB, which was being negotiated at the time.

"But if you say...if we do not think about it, if we kind of adapt in an intransigence behavior, magpatigasan (if we insist on our views), it will result in a war," he added. 

Duterte admitted that he would face difficulties if the stakeholders in Mindanao fail to reach an agreement. 

Misuari formed the MNLF in 1972 to fight for the establishment of an independent Moro state in Mindanao.

The MNLF and the Philippine government signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976, a deal that led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao two decades later.

Some MNLF members left the group because of disagreements with their leaders and formed the MILF. In 2014, the Philippine government signed a peace agreement with the MILF but Misuari rejected it, saying it violated previous deals with the MNLF. 

'Liguasan Marsh belongs to the Moros'

The president also assured Moros that the untapped oil reserves believed to be underneath the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao would not be taken away from them by the national government. 

"The government will not claim that. That is yours. No one will intervene there...That's my commitment," Duterte said. 

"It will remain in your control and possession but you just have to pay the taxes and the services that the government would spend," he added. 

The untapped oil and gas reserves believed to be beneath the Liguasan Marsh has an estimated value of $1 billion.

The area has been the site of fierce encounters between government forces and Moro rebels, including a clash in Mamasapano town that claimed the lives of more than 60 Filipinos, including 44 police commandos in 2015. 

Duterte said the resources in Liguasan Marsh could spur economic activity in Maguindanao. He, however, expressed hopes that Moros would not bar other groups from entering the area. 

"If there are trillions of cubic meters of oil, do not be worried at all. The government won't claim it...If you grow rich there in Maguindanao and in Sultan Kudarat, do not prohibit others from going there. Because the money is there. 

"If there is a commercial activity and there’s really oil in Liguasan Marsh, my God, everyone will go there. Christian, Muslims, Lumad and will join the fray to enjoy 
progress and development."

Duterte also urged Muslims to unite against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group that he said is using Islam to commit terrorism and barbaric acts. 

"More dangerous is the coming in of ISIS. Utang na loob po, huwag kayong pumatol diyan (I beg you, do not support them), or even the brutality of ISIS in the Middle 
East. It is something which nobody can stomach," the president said. 

"That’s the problem with ISIS. That is why it is very important that we get together...That’s totally b*** s***. They use the Quran but they kill people, even their blood brother, the Arabs. They've shown no mercy. So I’m sorry. If they come here, we'll have to fight," he added. — Alexis Romero




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