Philippine Government and MILF to Hold ‘Crucial’ Weekend Meet

Zamboanga, Philippines, 09 Dzulqa’dah 1437/12 August 2016 (MINA) – The Philippines presidential peace adviser confirmed Thursday that “crucial” meetings with the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group will be held in the Malaysian capital this weekend, Anadolu reported..

“The scheduled meeting [on Aug. 13-14] is crucial as the two sides are entering the implementation phase of the peace agreement,” Jesus Dureza said in statement.

He underlined that “all sectors in the Bangsamoro” in southern Mindanao island had expressed consensus that the period of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had concluded.

“We are now in the process of implementing all these signed agreements,” he said, referring to past peace deals signed with the MILF, as well as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from which it broke away.

On March 27, 2014, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) after 17 years of negotiations.

The agreement would have been sealed by the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was supposed to have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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The law, however, stalled in Congress earlier this year, as it adjourned for campaigning for the May 9 polls won by Rodrigo Duterte.

 

Crafting a new autonomy law

The upcoming formal meeting is the first to be held under Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao who has vowed to correct the historical injustices committed against the Muslim Moro and other indigenous peoples. He has also called for the passage of a new enabling law based off the CAB.

“This [meeting] is actually to launch the implementation stage of what we envisioned to be a Bangsamoro enabling law. It is to implement the CAB,” Dureza said Thursday.

Dureza underlined that the gathering in Kuala Lumpur would focus on a mechanism aimed at determining how the new law will be crafted, as well as discussing key provisions in the CAB that could already be implemented — including the delivery of socio-economic development programs.

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Under a Peace and Development Roadmap approved by Duterte, the new law will incorporate the CAB and a 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF brokered by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Dureza said the meeting’s agenda would also include the composition of a body tasked with drafting the new enabling law, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and the possibility of including leaders of the MNLF and officials from the existent Autonomous Region.

“There must be a convergence of all sectors amongst the Bangsamoro and in the forthcoming crafting of the enabling law that will establish the Bangsamoro governance unit,” he stressed. “We’d like to see inclusivity in this work, meaning all sectors in the Bangsamoro must be adequately represented.”

Under its current setup, the 15-member Commission will be composed of eight MILF representatives and seven appointees of the government.

Dureza, who has consulted with Moro leaders including MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and the MNLF’s Muslimin Sema, said there is a collective understanding of the willingness of all Moro leaders to participate in crafting the enabling law.

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Planned meeting with Nur Misuari

He underlined that government negotiators are also looking forward to meeting with fugitive MNLF founder Nur Misuari “but he is still under legal constraint because of the pending case against him.”

He added, however, that there are “direct engagements with him through other channels”.

While Sema leads the largest MNLF faction that has reached a joint consensus with the MILF for an “inclusive” autonomy law, Misuari’s faction considers the CAB a betrayal of the their 1996 agreement.

In 2013, Misuari laid siege to the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga to protest the MILF deal. Around 300 people were killed and thousands of houses razed.

“This is part of our continuing efforts to reach out to all the key players in the work for the sustainable peace with the Bangsamoro,” Dureza said Thursday. “If everything goes well, and it is acceptable in their [groups’] convergence, that can very well be the mechanism to… come together and craft the enabling law.” (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)