GPH-MILF nego on Power-Sharing: only one issue left to resolve

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews / 08 December)  — The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels were supposed to have ended talks here on Saturday but agreed to extend it by another day to try to hammer out an agreement on “Bangsamoro waters,” the last contentious issue that needs to be resolved so they could sign the Annex on Power-Sharing.

Both panels are pressed to finish negotiations on the Annexes on Power-sharing and Normalization, the last two annexes to the October 15, 2012  Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that would complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and pave the way for the creation of the “Bangsamoro,” a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 30 June 2016, the same day the Aquino administration bows out of office.

Counting from December 8, 2013, the parties have only 30 months or 935 days left to June 30, 2016.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles,  Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman have been attending the negotiations since Saturday, with Danilo Augsto Francia, Defense Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs.

“Substantial progress has been made on both annexes,” Deles told MindaNews Saturday night.

Deles and Lacierda were present in July when the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was signed but Lacierda left for Manila prior to the signing.  He told MindaNews Saturday night that he was staying on for the Sunday session.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman described the mood during the negotiations on Saturday as “light.” He said many were cracking jokes but he could see both panels had the drive to find ways to resolve the issues.

The MILF also brought in three senior members of its Central Committee. Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat identified them as Khalifa Nando, Zainoden Bato and Abo Ubaida Pacasem.

When the talks on the Annex on Wealth-Sharing were coming to an end on July 12 and 13, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim convened the Central Committee in the conference room of the MILF Peace Panel office in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, “so there will be fast and effective consultation process” with its peace panel in Kuala Lumpur.

He assured  civil society leaders in a dialogue at the same conference room on July 25 that the Central Committee will help fast-track the peace negotiations.

“We are always ready for whatever is necessary in the peace process because … we are all fully supportive.. we are fully sold out (to) this peace process and everybody is supportive.  So we can always do the same and even more than that if necessary, as the situation dictates,”  Murad said.

“Most likely”

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews Sunday morning that the panels will be discussing the power-sharing annex and normalization annexes “the whole day.”

She expressed optimism the Power-Sharing annex would be signed Sunday. “Most likely,” she said, but added she wants to be cautious just like in a Pacquiao boxing fight:  “big chance but not 100%.”

“There is much progress today,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said of the negotiations on Saturday.

Both Ferrer and Iqbal confirmed that Bangsamoro waters is the remaining issue to resolve in the Power-sharing annex.

“Revisit,” “Refine”

“Yes, only one remains to be resolved, Bangsamoro waters. But government wants to revisit five issues, which we the MILF did not agree to discuss in the plenary session,” Iqbal said.

Ferrer refered to the “five issues” as “refinements” to “clean up the text” of the power-sharing annex.

This round of talks was scheduled for December 4 to 7 but formally opened on December 5 upon the request of the GPH panel. The technical working groups on Normalization, however, met on December 4.

Under the FAB, the parties committed to work on the Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing, Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and Normalization,  to “complete the comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

The signing of the comprehensive peace agreement, already set back by a year, is a major step in the 15-step Roadmap to the Bangsamoro” that both parties had agreed to.

The panels are still on Step 5 with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law but cannot proceed further because the Annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization, equally important in the crafting of the Basic Law, have yet to be finished.

From 8 to 5 to 3 to 1

Iqbal on November 30 told MindaNews the panels are “on the final stretch on the Annex on Power-sharing as five of the remaining eight issues had been resolved in the executive session held on November 21 in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the five issues settled by the panels were “ancestral domain and natural resources, ancestral land and agrarian structure, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, land management distribution and reclassification, and all other powers not stated in the FAB and other annexes that are relevant to the FAB to be transferred to the Bangsamoro.”

The parties have yet to divulge the final text of the resolved issues.

Iqbal said the three issues that were to be settled in the December talks were: Bangsamoro waters, transportation and communication, and electoral system suitable to ministerial form of governance.

The issue on transportation and communication was settled on December 5.

MindaNews sources said the issue was resolved with both parties “agreeing on principles and letting the Basic Law allocate the appropriate powers for Bangsamoro Government and Central Government.”

The issue on electoral system was resolved by lifting the text from the FAB.

Stuck on waters

The panels are stuck on how to resolve the issue on Bangsamoro waters although sources told MindaNews that government on Friday proposed a “creative” way of moving ahead by signing the Annex on Power-Sharing with a provision that the panels would craft an addendum to both annexes on power-sharing and wealth-sharing,  on the Bangsamoro waters.

The MILF as of Saturday night, however, appeared lukewarm to the idea of signing the power-sharing annex without resolving the Bangsamoro waters issue.

The issue involves what the Iqbal refers to as “political contiguity and connectivity.

MindaNews sources said one of the formulations offered is for the Bangsamoro waters to be defined as an area up to 22 kilometers from the shoreline or seven kilometers more than municipal waters.

Another suggestion was to have a zone or area of cooperation deal with the issue of waters on the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea. For example, within the Moro Gulf are areas that are not part of the proposed core territory of the future Bangsamoro while the Sulu Sea, although part of the Bangsamoro, is Philippine territory even as Sulu claims ancestral domain over the Sulu Sea.

The issue on shares from oil and gas explorations in the Sulu Sea is also being discussed, with proposals of 60-40 sharing in favor of the Central Government, while another proposal is on royalty payment.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2013/12/08/gph-milf-nego-on-power-sharing-only-one-issue-left-to-resolve/


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