Aquino: BBL on track for passage this month
TOKYO—The Philippines is on track in its bid to pass within the month the bill that would prompt the establishment of the Bangsamoro juridical entity, President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday.
In an interaction with Japanese journalists before flying back to Manila, Mr. Aquino said the House of Representatives was “on schedule” in its deliberations on the draft law, which would set in motion the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed last year.
He said the bill was progressing at the legislature despite debates spurred by doubts on the sincerity of the MILF as a peace partner following the bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
The Jan. 25 clash, which involved police operatives, the MILF and its splinter Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, left 67 dead, including 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.
“In the peace process, our House of Representatives—where the current law on the Bangsamoro is being tackled—promised us even before the incident in Mamasapano that they expected to pass the measure by June. And they are on schedule,” said Mr. Aquino, responding to a question during an open forum with the Japan National Press Club yesterday morning.
“They are now actually engaged in plenary debates. The Senate will follow suit… As far as I’m concerned, and as far as our people are concerned, we still are experiencing what was promised by our legislature as far as their ability to pass this particular measure,” he said.
He said he was prodding Congress to pass the law the soonest it could.
“I am pushing both the Lower and the Upper Houses of our legislature to pass the law as soon as possible, because this has to be ratified in a plebiscite by our people, and to maximize the effects of the new governance prior to our elections next year,” Mr. Aquino said.
Peace process ‘bump’
The President said the Mamasapano incident and its aftermath “hasn’t stopped the [peace] process.”
“The incident was a bump. It was tragic. But it hasn’t stopped the process because, at the end of the day, all of us want peace in Mindanao,” said Mr. Aquino.
He expressed optimism that the law would lead to a peaceful regime in the Bangsamoro, hoping that this would “shun away those who are espousing secession or rebellion or brigandry.”
Japan has been a staunch and consistent supporter of efforts to bring peace to Mindanao, backing the efforts through maintaining its presence in the International Contact Group (ICG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) watching over the process.
In the joint declaration that Mr. Aquino signed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, Japan reaffirmed its commitment to support the peace process, particularly through initiating the second phase of its grass roots development program in the region.
In the action plan annexed to the declaration, the Japanese side said it will “focus on ensuring the strengthening of the Bangsamoro” through a new phase of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-Bird).
J-Bird 2 would build on the gains of the first phase of J-Bird, a grant aid program that has funneled some P300 million into community projects covering education, health, social welfare, agriculture, microcredit, disaster response, livelihood training and capacity-building across Mindanao communities since 2006.
Under the strengthened strategic partnership between the two sides, Japan also promised to continue sending experts to the IMT and the ICG.
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