PH, MILF wrap up talks on Bangsamoro draft law | Inquirer News
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PH, MILF wrap up talks on Bangsamoro draft law

/ 02:57 PM August 15, 2014

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, head of the government negotiating panel, exchange copies of the peace agreement between the MILF and the Aquino administration they signed in Malacañang on March 27, 2014. Malacañang on Wednesday acknowledged concerns coming from its allies that Congress might fail to meet the administration’s December 2014 deadline to pass a law that would establish a new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Friday   they had wrapped up talks aimed at ensuring the terms of a landmark peace deal that would carve out a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

In a joint statement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chair Mohagher Iqbal said, “(W)e have concluded discussions on the various issues involving the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) originally drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and submitted to the President last April.”

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“The parties have agreed that the resolutions arrived at by both parties will be incorporated into the final draft Basic Bangsamoro Law that will be prepared and submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino III,” the joint statement said.

The MILF has been fighting since the 1970s for an independent or autonomous homeland for the nation’s Muslim minority in a conflict which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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The Aquino government and the MILF signed an accord in March that laid out a roadmap for final peace by the middle of 2016.

The deal called for MILF control of a new southern autonomous region, and the rebels would lay down their arms.

However the process ran into difficulties after a draft bill creating the autonomous region was submitted to Aquino for review in April by a joint commission of MILF and government representatives that drew up the document.

The president’s legal team later ordered a series of changes that frustrated the MILF, which last month accused the government of trying to renege on the terms of the peace agreement.

The two panels met for 10 days from August 1 to 10 in Davao to iron out the issues in the Bangsamoro draft law.

Both panels also met in Kuala Lumpur last July to finalize the proposed law drafted by the Bangsamoro Transmission Commission

The statement did not discuss the details of these resolutions.

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Palace spokeswoman Abigail Valte said both panels were supposed to complete the crafting of the final draft of the bill by Monday, and then submit this to the President.

“Last August 11 they were 70 percent complete,’’ she said. She said the panels would also consult the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Ateneo School of Government, among others. “They’re trying their best to meet their self-imposed deadline.’’

Last weekend, both panels declared they had reached “agreement on substantial portions,’’ including the preamble, fiscal autonomy and inter-government relations.

Senate President Franklin Drilon predicted that the bill would be passed during the first quarter of next year, still within the time-frame for the setting up of the Bangsamoro juridical entity when Mr. Aquino steps down in June 2016.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Drilon commended both panels for ironing out their differences on the bill.

“The Senate, for its part, vows to work double time so that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed into law by the first quarter of next year,’’ he said.

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law represents all our hopes and aspirations for a lasting and genuine peace and inclusive social and economic development in Mindanao. We will not fail the Filipino people, especially our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,’’ he added.

The fresh talks were seen as crucial to keep the peace roadmap on schedule, allowing time for Congress to pass the self-rule law by the end of this year or early next year.

The deadline of mid-2016 was set since Aquino must stand down by then after the end of his single six-year term as mandated by the constitution. There are no guarantees his successor will want to proceed with the peace plan. With reports from TJ Burgonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Agence France-Presse

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Basic Law, MILF, Mindanao peace process, Moro Islamic Liberation Front
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