COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/21 September) – The problems are certainly more than the 11 drawn from the provincial peace summits in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao but the recommendations and proposed solutions from the people themselves are worth looking into, including crafting a regional election law “suited to the circumstances of the ARMM as an autonomous region.”
Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) presented 11 “peace and development” issues and their recommended solutions before the closing of the first ever ARMM Peace Summit Tuesday morning.
The 11 issues are: leadership crisis; electoral system not suitable to ARMM situation; poor access to and control in the exploitation and utilization of strategic resources; weak fiscal autonomy; low agricultural and industrial productivity; land conflict; poor delivery and access to basic services and facilities; non-adherence to EO 125 and other existing laws over Official Development Assistance Management; unstable peace and order; inadequate representation of ARMM to the national government; insincerity of the GRP to implement the letter and spirit of the 1996 FPA (Final Peace Agreement).
“Human rights should have been included there,” a Moro woman leader attending the Peace Summit told MindaNews.
On the “leadership crisis,” Sinarimbo noted there are two Moro fronts – Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — and two separate negotiations for a common aspiration.
He also pointed to the ARMM’s absentee leaders and how ARMM is being treated as a mere local government unit in disregard of its being a Special Autonomous Region.
At the press conference Monday night, Sinarimbo acknowledged that indeed, “there has to be a paradigm shift in the governance of the regional autonomy;” that leaders should not see themselves only as mere adjuncts but should assert the right to self-determination.
To address the leadership problem, Sinarimbo said the Summit was recommending that the MNLF and MILF “have a common stand for the settlement of the Southern Philippine Conflict;” that ARMM be mandated to facilitate the implementation of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA); and that there should be a “strong assertion of the character of ARMM as a Special Autonomous Region, and not as a Local Government Unit.”
The Summit also recommended the formulation of an ARMM Peace and Development Agenda as basis of unity among ARMM political leaders; and that Principles of Good Governance be exercised or observed.
On the electoral system which is “not suitable to ARMM situation,” Sinarimbo said there is an absence of a suitable ARMM Electoral system or election code and that there is “national interference on selection of ARMM candidates.”
Sinarimbo told the press conference Monday night, “we all know what we have in the ARMM is an erection, not an election.”
Malacanang has been dictating and has been putting up a candidate, he said, to explain “erection” instead of election.
The Summit recommended the passage of an ARMM regional election law suited to the circumstance of ARMM as an autonomous region.
On the “poor access to and control in the exploitation and utilization of strategic resources,” Sinarimbo said, the ARMM is restricted to exploit strategic minerals, according to RA 9054, which amended the Organic Act governing the ARMM.
The Summit recommended amending the provision in the law to include the control and supervision over the exploration, utilization, development and protection of strategic minerals. It also recommended the devolution of the Department of Energy, Bureau of Mines and Minerals; creation of the Ligawasan Marsh Development Authority; full control over and management of Lake Lanao watershed by the ARMM and issuance of a national directive for the joint management of Sulu Oil Exploration, Tawi-tawi Gas Exploration, Watershed development and other similar future projects.
On the weak fiscal autonomy, Sinarimbo cited, among other issues, the fact that revenue-generating agencies such as attached agencies of the Department of Transportation and Communications have not been devolved to the ARMM.
The Summit recommended that the national government provide the ARMM a “proportionate and equitable share in the annual budget and foreign-assisted projects… to accelerate its development.”
It also recommended that the national government “shall continue to provide such level of expenditures to enable the ARG to carry out the functions devolved under the Organic Act.”
On low agricultural productivity, the Summit recommended, among others, the creation of special financing windows for ARMM farmers and fisherfolk within the government financing institutions.
On land conflict, which includes land grabbing, double claimants, boundary disputes, voluntary offer to sell (VOS)-related disputes, ancestral domain claims subjected to mining exploration by multinational corporations and political boundaries between local government units, the Summit recommended the creation of a special body to address land conflict in the ARMM and “resolution of the ancestral domain issue in the GRP-MILF Peace Process.”
On poor delivery and access to basic services and facilities, Sinarimbo said ARMM has about 70% literacy rate compared with the national average of 94.3%; that poor quality of education is “due to DepEd’s (Department of Education’s) low appropriation as compared to other regions;” that the region ahs “poor quality of health services,” among others.
The Summit recommended the devolution of the National Housing Authority to ARMM; the increase of budget for programs and projects on basic services; that revenue share of ARMM on power generation as host region remitted to ARMM; and that ARMM be made a member of the National Power Corporation Board.
On non-adherence to EO 125 and other existing laws over Official Development Assistance (ODA) management, Sinarimbo said most ODA programs and projects as well as humanitarian assistance are not controlled and managed by ARMM.
The Summit recommended that the ARMM should serve as the “executing agency of all ODA programs and projects to be implemented in ARMM.”
On the unstable peace and order situation in the ARMM, Sinarimbo cited presence of internally displaced persons, recurring armed confrontation, proliferation of loose firearms, presence of lawless armed groups and family feuds or rido.”
The Summit recommended the “resumption and conclusion of the peace process between GRP and Moro fronts;” implementation of a comprehensive rehabilitation program for the internally displaced persons in the ARMM; dismantling of private armed groups and imposition of gun ban.
On the inadequate representation of the ARMM to the national government, the Summit recommended to the national government to observe the provisions of RA 9054 by appointing ARMM representatives in the judiciary, executive departments and constitutional bodies, government owned and controlled bodies.
On the “insincerity of the GRP to implement the letter and spirit of the 1996 FPA,” the Summit recommended the resumption of tripartite review of FPA and amendment of RA 9054 to fully comply with the provisions of the Final Peace Agreement.
The MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema attended the summit. Absent were representatives of the MNLF under Nur Misuari and the MILF. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)