GPH, MILF sign Power-Sharing annex; January eyed for signing of comprehensive peace pact

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews / 08 December)  — The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels signed Sunday night the Annex on Power-Sharing to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) with the panels agreeing that the unresolved issue on “Bangsamoro waters” be treated as an addendum to the annexes on Power-Sharing and Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing.

Sunday’s signing leaves only one more annex –  Normalization –  for the panels to finally complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that would hasten the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to  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.

In their Joint Statement Sunday, the panels said they are confident they will “finish the Annex on Normalization and an addendum on the matter of Bangsamoro waters … in January 2014.” The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that is drafting the BBL, expects to complete its task by April 2014.

SIGNED. The Annex on Power-Sharing was finally signed evening of December 8, 2013 after 16 months of negotiations. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

SIGNED. The Annex on Power-Sharing was finally signed evening of December 8, 2013 after 16 months of negotiations. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

 

It took government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and the Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed at least 10 mintues — from 8:57 p.m. to 9:07 p.m. –  to sign three sets of the  12-page Annex on Power-Sharing and the two-page Joint Statement at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel, with members of both panels affixing their initials on the Annex document.

The news on the signing was confirmed to MindaNews by Tengku at around 5:45 p.m. but “cleaning up the final text” for the signing took some time.

Reserved, Exclusive, Concurrent

The Annex on Power Sharing took 16 months to negotiate since the Technical Working Groups first convened in August 2012.

It delineates powers between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Ministerial Government within the territorial jurisdiction of the “Bangsamoro;” spells out the Central Government’s reserved powers, the Bangsamoro’s exclusive powers within its territorial jurisdiction, and concurrent powers shared by the Central and Bangsamoro governments and also provides the principles of intergovernmental relations “to ensure the harmonious partnership between and among the different levels of government,” the Joint Statement said.

The document is divided into four parts: intergovernmental relations, governance structure of the Bangsamoro Ministerial Government, and Other Matters pertaining to power-sharing such as transportation and communication, mineral and energy sources, taxation, powers already devolved to the ARMM which are relevant to the FAB.

The Annex is the third of four annexes needed to complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The first, Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, was signed in February while the Annex on Revenue-Generation and Wealth-Sharing, was signed in July. Along with the Annex on Normalization, these have been completed by yearend 2012, as committed by the parties under the FAB.

The signing also comes on the eve of the 40th Organization of the Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Conakry, Guinea on December 9 to 11 where the issue on “Muslims in the southern Philippines” is among the items on the agenda.

The Philippine government is sending a delegation to Conakry led by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, a former government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF, who will be accompanied by Undersecretaries Nabil Tan of the Office of the Executive Secretary and Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Tan, then ARMM Vice Governor, was a member of the  government peace panel that negotiated with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari from 1992 to 1996 while Lorena was a member of Misuari’s panel then.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim is also attending the Conakry meeting. It is not certain if Misuari, who is wanted in the Philippines for allegedly instigating the MNLF attack in Zamboanga City in September, is attending.

The MNLF, from where the MILF split in the late 1970s, has an observer status in the OIC but the OIC has been trying to get the two fronts and the other MNLF factions into a Bangsamoro Coordination Forum.

Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the 57-nation OIC, sent a message to the MILF’s  Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly in July last year that since the peace processes with the MILF and MNLF “revolve around the same problem and the same territory, the process of coordination between the two fronts has become of utmost necessity.”

Ihsanoglu attended the signing of the FAB in Malacanang Palace on October 15, 2012.

Newborn baby

Sunday’s signing of the power-sharing comes 30 months or 935 days to June 30, 2016, the end of the Aquino administration and the target date for the installation of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro government.

Ferrer in her closing remarks described the Annex as having “four major parts; 3,807 words, excluding the signatories, a set of principles of intergovernmental relations; provides a level of detail on the structure of government of the future BMG; three lists of powers, 9 reserved to Central Government, 14 concurrent or joint powers of the CG and BMG, and 58 exclusive or devolved powers to the BMG, not to mention 4 items relating to jurisdiction in other matters.”

She likened the power-sharing annex as a baby born out of a difficult pregnancy. “Now this newborn baby will have to be introduced to the world. We expect that a good number out there would be eager to see it, scrutinize its different parts and get to know about it more,” she said.

“.  In its genes, the shape of the future Bangsamoro political entity are encoded. But we know that all these will have to be translated into the Bangsamoro Basic Law – one that will put in place a strong, viable autonomous governance for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, and connect with its siblings and cousins who came before them and will come after them,” she said.

Iqbal cautioned that despite the success in completing the Annex on Power-Sharing, the road ahead is “still full of twists and turns.”

“Sometimes, an impending success is aborted at the finishing line. We cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot throw down our guard even for a single minute. There are many spoilers along the way waiting to ambush this peace process,” Iqbal said.

But he noted that with the “unflinching commitment and sincerity” of Presidnet Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, and the support of the Malaysian government, “the final success of this peace negotiation is a matter of time.”

Cabinet and Central Committee members

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles,  Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Danilo Agusto Francia, Defense Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs stood behind the signing table along with other panel members from both sides and members of the MILF’ Central Committee during the signing.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman was with Deles’ team on Saturday but left Sunday noon due to an appointment in Cotabato City. Before he left, he told MindaNews he was optimistic a deal would be sealed that day.

Both Deles and Lacierda told MindaNews the President had been informed shortly before 7 p.m. that the Annex would be signed.

They quoted the President as saying, “Great!”

Deles in a statement said the signing “ensures the achievement of a genuine and viable autonomy for the Bangsamoro.”

“It has been a very difficult round but we were able to overcome a lot of obstacles, showing the Parties’ shared commitment to finish and deliver on our peoples’ desire for peace. We consider the signing of the Annex on Power Sharing as a special gift of the Season for the Filipino people, an indication of the collective hopes and dreams of our people for just and lasting peace,” she said.

Deles and Lacierda were present in July when the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was signed but Lacierda left for Manila prior to the signing.  This time, Lacierda stayed to witness the signing of the power-sharing annex.  He told MindaNews there would be a formal ceremony for the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement once the panels complete the Normalization annex and the Bangsamoro waters addendum. The signing of the FAB was held in Malacanang.

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 Murad 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.

Stuck on waters

The panels formally opened their talks on December 5 with three unresolved issues: 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 with both parties “agreeing on principles and letting the Basic Law allocate the appropriate powers for Bangsamoro Government and Central Government” while the issue on electoral system was resolved by lifting the text from the FAB.

But the panels got stuck on the issue on Bangsamoro waters.  MindaNews sources said 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. By Sunday afternoon, however, the MILF appeared to have warmed up to the idea and eventually agreed, thus paving the way for the signing.

MindaNews sources said one of the formulations offered was 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 and management 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 was also discussed, with proposals of 60-40 sharing in favor of the Central Government, while another proposal was on royalty payment.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2013/12/09/gph-milf-sign-power-sharing-annex-january-eyed-for-signing-of-comprehensive-peace-pact/


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