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MILF, AFP, US, UN, business leaders in South upbeat on BBL

/ 06:00 AM September 12, 2014

A young Muslim girl flashes the peace sign in support of the passage of a law giving autonomy to minority Muslims, during a rally near Malacañang on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, to coincide with the handing over of the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in a ceremony at the presidential palace. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has high hopes that the proposed BBL will clear Congress because it is “for the sake of peace in Mindanao,” the group’s officials say. AFP

MANILA, Philippines–The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has high hopes that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will clear Congress because it is “for the sake of peace in Mindanao,” the group’s officials say.

President Aquino transmitted the Bangsamoro draft law to Congress on Wednesday, asking the lawmakers to pass it “in the soonest possible time.”

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In a special ceremony held at Rizal Hall in Malacañang, Aquino handed over copies of the bill to Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Assisting the President in the turnover were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the MILF and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Committee that drafted the proposed basic law.

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End to conflict

The military called the submission of the draft law to Congress another step closer to ending the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

“We believe that the successful implementation of the peace process, with the eventual establishment of the Bangsamoro, will provide the political solution that will end the four-decade conflict in Mindanao,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said in a statement on Wednesday.

“By enacting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, a just and lasting peace will finally dawn in Mindanao, ending more than 40 years of fighting between Filipinos versus Filipinos,” Catapang said, noting that the conflict has cost 150,000 lives.

‘Blissful atmosphere’

The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is the product of 17 years of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, and has paved the way for the realization of the Bangsamoro’s quest for self-rule, Ghadzali Jaafar, the MILF’s political affairs chief, said on Wednesday.

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the group’s high hopes were reflected in the “blissful atmosphere among the commanders and fighters on the ground after they learned that Congress accepted the draft.”

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“We are happy but we are also hoping that the result after Congress will be acceptable,” he said by phone.

Not end of ARMM

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said on Wednesday that the creation of the Bangsamoro government would not be the end of the existing government but would be a step toward peace and development in the troubled region.

“Bangsamoro is not the end of the ARMM. It is the beginning of peace and progress, the groundwork for which was made possible by the

ARMM,” Hataman said.

“Far from being a failed experiment, the ARMM is living proof that good governance can lead only to success and that success is what will fuel the Bangsamoro’s continuing quest for peace, progress and the right to self-rule,” he said.

Hataman described the proposed law as a “child born of countless hours of deep thought and discussion,” and its future now lies in the hands of the lawmakers.

He urged the legislators to “deliberate and act upon all matters related to the advancement and welfare of the Bangsamoro people, and make the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law the basis of lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao.”

International partners

The Philippines’ international partners in the search for peace and pursuit of development in Mindanao congratulated the government and the MILF for the submission of the draft law to Congress.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Wednesday expressed pleasure that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was “going forward.”

“It’s a good day when the basic law is ready and we hope to be able, from the United States, to support the agreement when it is put into place through economic and other ways,” Goldberg told reporters.

Goldberg congratulated the government and the MILF for their efforts in moving the peace process forward.

Canada also welcomed the submission of the Bangsamoro draft law to Congress.

“[The submission of the proposed law] and the pending substantive debate on the bill are important steps in the process aimed at achieving lasting peace and long-term prosperity in Mindanao,” Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Together with the international community, Canada remains committed to being an active partner in continuing our support for the establishment and implementation of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Crucial step

The World Bank also congratulated the government and the MILF for completing the draft law and submitting it to Congress.

“This is a crucial step [on] the road map to achieving peace and development in Mindanao,” the World Bank said in a statement on Wednesday.

The United Nations welcomed the transmittal of the draft law to Congress and said it was ready to support the implementation of the peace agreement.

“This is a critical milestone in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and a crucial achievement in ensuring lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao and in the wider Philippines,” the United Nations said in a statement on Wednesday.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza also expressed her support for the draft law but said it should be in accord with the Constitution.

“My support and prayers. Hoping all is aligned [with the] Constitution,” Mendoza said in a statement.

Personal interests

In Davao City, Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao on Wednesday said the business community believed that the establishment of the Bangsamoro would end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

“I hope Congress will approve it immediately,” Lao said, referring to the draft Bangsamoro law.

He called on lawmakers to “set aside their political and personal interests in the deliberation on the bill, “and put premium on the interests of the people of not only Mindanao but the entire country as well.”

“We welcome the good news and [are enthusiastic about being able] to help in peace-building and hopeful that sustainable peace [can] be achieved,” said Alih S. Aiyub, secretary general of the Bishop-Ulama Conference.

Alrashid Jama of the Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliates also called on Congress to be transparent in the discussions.

“Hopefully, no secret deal just to rush the law,” Jama said.–Reports from Marlon Ramos and Christine Avendaño in Manila, and Allan Nawal, Charlie Señase, Judy Quiros, Karlos Manlupig, Germelina Lacorte and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: AFP, Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Business, MILF, Moro Insurgency, peace process, UN, US
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