Last Annex signed; GPH, MILF move to next phase: implementation

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/25 January) — The end of the negotiations phase and the beginning of the implementation phase.

The peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed at 5:49 p.m. Saturday the 10-page Annex on Normalization and the three-page “On the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation” addendum to the annexes on Wealth- and Power-sharing, marking what government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said was the end of the negotiations phase of the 17-year old peace process, and the beginning of the implementation phase.

Ferrer told a joint press conference after the signing of the documents at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel that today’s signing “marks the end of a process which is the formal negotiations — the effective end, of course with some more finishing touches here and there that will be necessary — but it also marks the beginning of a bigger challenge ahead, which is implementation.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohager Iqbal said the importance of the documents as well as other documents they have signed “is more for my people. I’m just incidental. I happen to be the chair of the MILF peace panel. Everything is dedicated for my people.”

Saturday's signing of the last of the four Annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It marks the end of the negotiations phase of the 17-year old peace process and the beginning of the implementation phase. PHoto courtesy of OPAPP

Saturday’s signing of the last of the four Annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It marks the end of the negotiations phase of the 17-year old peace process and the beginning of the implementation phase. PHoto courtesy of OPAPP

The Annex on Normalization is the last of four annexes to the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). The Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was signed on February 27, 2013; the Annex on Revenue-Generation and Wealth-Sharing on July 13, 2013; and the Annex on Power-Sharing on December 8, 2013.

Having completed all four annexes, the panels are now set to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The panels have yet to set the date and venue in the Philippines for the signing of the CAB but Ferrer and Iqbal told MindaNews on Friday that the signing would be in “February or March.”

Ferrer announced at 4:50 p.m. to the foreign and Philippine media that had gathered for a supposed 1 p.m. press briefing, that the parties completed the negotiations on the Annex on Normalization at 4:45 p.m. and were going to sign the document, along with the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters which was actually completed a day earlier, as soon as the MILF peace panel finishes its talk with the two Mindanao senators and six members of the House of Representatives who arrived here to witness the signing.

14 months

The Annex on Normalization took 14 months to negotiate. The technical working groups led by National Security Council Undersecretary Zenonida Brosas for the GPH and Mohammad Nasif of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces for the MILF, began their first meeting their meeting in November 2012, a month after the signing of the FAB.

As early as that first meeting, Iqbal had said in his opening statement then that of the three – wealth and power sharing and normalization – the latter was “the harder nut to crack” because “it is not only about disposition of troops, weapons, decommissioning and policing, but it is more importantly tied up with implementation of the Agreement on the ground, which in turn breeds trust. Trust is something that cannot happen instantly especially between former adversaries. You have to patiently build and nurture it.”

At the press conference after the signing of the Normalization annex, Iqbal said, normalization is “the most sensitive, emotional, and as far as I know, it entails a lot of sacrifices on the part of the MILF because to pay for peace, real peace in Mindanao, we have to decommission our forces and put them beyond use. As to the number of combatants that are involved to the decommissioning process, it’s part of the verification and identification which will be undertaken by the Independent Decommissioning Body. We have not discussed yet the figure.”

But Iqbal stressed that “there is no element of surrender” in the Annex. “There would be no destruction of firearms. It merely says that the combatants especially the firearms are put beyond use. How to define putting beyond use is still a subject of the assignment of the independent Decommissioning Body.’

Ferrer said they have several activities lined up addressing all components of Normalization: “security, socio-economic, transitional justice and social reconciliation, as well as the political and legislative process that will have to be done to complete the whole agreement. So it’s going to be part and parcel of that roadmap and that roadmap, the main target is to be able to substantially complete everything by the end of this administration in 2016.”

Ferrer said the Normalizaton process “calls for a gradual and phased process. Upon the signing we cannot expect that we have a complete change in the situation. Everything will have to go through a gradual and phased process.”

The Aquino administration has repeatedly said it will only sign an agreement that it can implement within its term. Asked if the timeline for the Normalization, a process that usually takes years, is also tied up with the end of Aquino’s term on June 30, 2016, Ferrer replied: “It takes a long time. We have targets, but as always, we are flexible. The difference between now and 2016 is that by 2016 you will have the regular institutions in place. They would have been fully instituted which means that if there are any other elements that would need to be implemented beyond 2016, much of the work would have to be done by the regular institutions.”

Phasing, Sequencing Matrix

The panels have come up with a matrix on the phasing and sequencing of the different elements of the Annex on Normalization. According to Section K, the last provision in the Annex, the phasing and sequencing are “reflected in the attached matrix” but no copy of the matrix has been released to the public. The same section said the matrix “shall be released upon the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

The Annex on Normalization also provides for the creation of six bodies: the Independent Commission on Policing which has been set up and led by Canada, the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC),
Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST), Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC)

Other salient points of the Annex on Normalization:

Pardon, amnesty

The Annex provides that in order to facilitate the healing of the wounds of conflict and the return to normal life, the Government “shall take immediate steps through amnesty, pardon and other available processes towards the resolution of cases of persons charged with or convicted of crimes and offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

What to do with MILF camps?

As a confidence-building measure, the parties, after the signing of the Annex, will constitute joint task forces that will “assess the needs, plan appropriate programs, and undertake the necessary measures to transform (the previously acknowledged MILF camps) into peaceful and productive communities.”

The Annex listed the following camps: Camp Abubakar As-siddique in Maguindanao, Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab in Maguindanao, Camp Rajamuda in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, Camp Badre in Maguindanao, and Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur.

These were the same camps that were the object of the Estrada administration’s “all-out war” in 2000.

Disbanding private armed groups

The Annex on Normalization also provides that the GPH in coordination with the MILF, will conduct a corresponding assessment and devise a plan for the disbandment of private armed groups (PAGS) as part of the normalization process.

The disbandment of PAGs, “using diverse and appropriate approaches or methodologies,” shall be a priority to be undertaken by both parties through the JNC.

Bangsamoro Waters

The Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters provides that the Bangsamoro Waters shall extend up to 22.224 kilometers or 12 nautical miles from the low-water mark of the coasts that are part of the Bangsamoro territory and shall be part of the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity.

The Addendum actually grants nothing new in terms of extent because under the Fisheries Code, the municipal waters extend up to 15 kilometers from the coast and the ARMM’s Muslim Mindanao Act 86 or the Fisheries Code of the ARMM, provides for an additional seven kilometers, or a total of 22.

But the Addendum provides that beyond the Bangsamoro waters and municipal waters of all adjoining local government units, there will be Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf for the protection of traditional fishing grounds, benefiting from the resources, and “interconnectivity of the islands and the mainland parts of a cohesive Bangsaoro political entity.”

The Addendum also provices for a Joint Body for the Zones of Cooperation. composed of representatives from the Central Governemnt and the Bangsamoro government which shall ensure the participation of the concerned local government units.

The Bangsamoro people, other indigenous peoples in adjoining provinces and resident fishers in the Bangsamoro “shall have preferential rights over fishery, aquamarine and other living resources in the Zones of Joint Cooperation,” the Addendum provides.

Ten years after the signing of the CAB, the Central and Bangsamoro governments “shall discuss the enhancement of the area of the Bangsamoro Waters through the necessary modalities and proceses.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/peace-process/2014/01/25/last-annex-signed-gph-milf-move-to-next-phase-implementation/

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