Final annex signing ‘major milestone’ but ‘long way to go’ for peace in Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines – The last annex of the peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) may be considered a “major milestone”, but the road to peace is still a long way to go, a government negotiator said Saturday.
At the heart of the annex is the decommissioning or the laying down of arms by the MILF and the silencing of the guns of the government.
“It takes a long time. We have targets, but as always we are flexible,” Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a live press conference at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which brokered the peace talks.
She added that by 2016, the regular institutions in the Bangsamoro shall have been put in place.
These institutions will then be in charge of implementing the other provisions for the decommissioning of firearms, Ferrer said.
In a separate statement, Teresita Quinto Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, said, “It has been a very difficult road arriving at this major milestone of the peace process. This is indeed a long-awaited moment that is a gift to our people at the start of a new year of renewed hope and commitment.”
Deles, who is also in Kuala Lumpur, said the government assured its readiness to undertake the tasks that shall ensure the full and satisfactory implementation of the agreement.
“It has been a difficult road getting to here and we know that the path ahead will continue to be fraught with challenges,” she said.
Deles said there would be new arrangements and mechanisms set up for the government and the MILF to ensure the transformation of MILF forces and conflict-affected communities from the harsh ways of war to the nurturance of partnership and cooperation.
She said President Benigno Aquino III’s vision, compassion and his love and resolve for Mindanao has brought a new era for the Bangsamoro, where dreams of peace and prosperity would begin to overcome the nightmares of the past.
The signing of the last of the four annexes would complete the Bangsamoro Framework, sealing the agreement that seeks to end the decades-long Muslim secessionist movement by MILF.
The last document signed was the normalization annex which would discuss the laying down of arms of the MILF. Another addendum signed delineated the Bangsamoro territorial waters.
The MILF, which has been pushing for secession for decades, signed with the Philippine government the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October 2012.
With the completion of the documents, a separate political entity called the Bangsamoro Political Entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Both parties have also signed the annexes on transitional arrangements and modalities, revenue generation and wealth sharing, and power sharing.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which comprises the four annexes, will be signed in Manila.
While other armed groups remain, turning the Moro rebel group into a government ally is seen as a key step to end the Muslim insurgency.
Deles commended the government and the MILF panels particularly MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad and the members of the MILF Central Committee for the trust and commitment to see the negotiations and the subsequent implementation of the agreement to completion.
She also thanked the Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato Abdul Ghafar, together with his hard-working secretariat, and the government of Malaysia for their hospitality and fraternal guidance.
“In a world looking for peaceful solutions to all troubles, we are grateful that we have found ours. Let us all seal it and nurture it. The best is yet to come,” she said.