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MILF sees peace accord by April

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 08:11 PM December 06, 2013

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Moro Islamic Liberation Front  chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has said that a final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law  that will seal a final peace deal with the government would be finalized in April next year.

“After talking to some lawmakers in Manila, the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) has set April in 2014 as the timeline that the draft of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) will be finalized and immediately transmitted to the Philippine Congress for their deliberation,” Iqbal said in his statement at the opening of the 42nd round of exploratory talks that began on December 4 in Kuala Lumpur.

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“I hope Congress, with their collective wisdom, would pass a ‘good legislation’,” he added.

His comments were posted on the websites of both the Philippine government and the MILF.

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The deadline for the draft law has been set even if the government and MILF panels still have to hammer out the annexes on normalization and power-sharing, two of the four documents supplementary to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, touted as the blueprint towards a final peace deal.

Iqbal proposed that the panels “settle power-sharing now without waiting for the normalization (annex) to catch up,” noting that the latter was conceived and discussed much later than the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and transitional arrangements and modalities.

He stressed it was “urgent” to do so because the Bangsamoro Transition Committee needs the power-sharing annex to be able to cover much ground and that this annex “is a confidence-building measure of sort to make up for the popular notion that the government is only interested in dismantling and disarming the MILF through a glamorized scheme called ‘decommissioning’.”

Iqbal acknowledged that the disarming of the MILF combatants is “such a sensitive issue… because this process is irreversible.”

“It is the first and last act. On the other hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines  can deploy and redeploy, and cannot only come back anytime but its fire power and manpower are effectively intact. Come to think it, this is a one-sided equation! But don’t ever doubt the MILF complying with all signed agreements including decommissioning. Who is in need of a gun anyway when there is no need for it or everything comes to normal?” Iqbal said, adding:

“It is not fair to say that bearing firearms is part of Moro culture. The truth is that enemies from without starting from the Spaniards to the Americans and then to the years of Martial Law of Marcos forced Moros to defend themselves.”

Forging a peace agreement with the MILF has been a policy central to the Aquino administration, but after the much-hyped signing of the Framework Agreement in October last year, talks have been going at a sluggish pace.

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The talks deadlocked in the middle of the year brought about by contentious points in the wealth-sharing agreement that were eventually ironed out.

In September, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front loyal to MNLF founder Nur Misuari, launched an attack on Zamboanga City after Misuari accused the government of ignoring its peace agreement  with the  MNLF and was replacing it with the agreement it was forging with the MILF. The MILF is a breakaway faction of the MNLF.

The MILF  has repeatedly said that it was crucial to sign a peace agreement under the watch of President Benigno Aquino, on whom the secessionist group has put its trust.

The urgency was not lost on government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

“The Aquino administration has less than 1,000 days left, let us make the most of these days, before we get caught again in the whirlpool of the next electoral campaign, or our national attention and resources again be consumed by the next super typhoon, earthquake or other devastating events,” she said.

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TAGS: MILF, Mindanao peace process, Mohagher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Peace agreement
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