GPH-MILF annexes done in two months

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels ended 2012 without finishing what it agreed to complete: the annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that would have formed part of the comprehensive peace pact but GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is optimistic “it should not take more than two months to finish the four annexes.”

By then, Ferrer said in her New Year’s message,  the 15-member Transition Commission (TransCom) “should have been fully organized and ready to build on the terms laid out by the Panels in the Annexes.”

The annexes on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities,  were supposed to be finished by yearend  to complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

“The future is on track,” Ferrer said.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF is “hoping 2013 is as productive as 2012.”

“May this year usher in more partnership with the GPH,” he said.

The panels, under the FAB, actually failed to meet their target of completing the annexes by the end of the year.

Signed on October 15  in Malacanang in the presence of President Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister  Dato’ Sri Mohammad Hajib Bin Tun Abdul Razak, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the diplomatic corps, civil society, the Aquino Cabinet, the MILF Central Committee and commanders, the FAB provides for the creation of  the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016.

The FAB also provides that the parties would “work further on the details of the Framework Agreement “ and “complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

On his part, President Aquino on December 17 signed Executive Order 120 creating the  TransCom that would prepare the groundwork for  the setting up of the Bangsamoro. The House of Representatives and Senate passed resolutions in support of the EO, before both houses went on Christmas break.

The government and MILF peace panels have yet to name their TransCom nominees.

The TransCom’s main task is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

No joint statement, no date for next meeting

The two panels ended their Deecember 12 to 15 talks on the Annexes on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization and on Transitional Arrangements  with no joint statement on what transpired during the four-day negotiations in Kuala Lumpur and no date set for the next meeting.
The panels were supposed to finish the annexes before end of the 2012 but Iqbal said their discussions ended on a “technical impasse.”
Ferrer, who assumed the post of government peace panel chair in December, vice Marvic Leonen who was named Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, said at the end of the talks in December that they made “considerable progress.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal acknowledged that substantial progress was made in the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization.”

Sources said discussion on the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was  “99% complete” but the parties were deadlocked on a major issue that the for the MILF is ‘non-negotiable:’ the leadership of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that will take over the ARMM as soon as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified.

The same sources said the MILF, which will lead the TransCom, is not amenable to the GPH proposal for a Bangamoro-led BTA instead of an MILF-led BTA.

The GPH, according to sources, is pushing for a two-track convergence of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) peace processes through the BTA.  An MILF source told MindaNews: “parang kami ang nagsaing, iba ang kakain” (it’s like we did the cooking but not the eating).

Past the mid-way mark

In her New Year’s message, Ferrer said the two panels are “way past the mid-way mark after meeting only twice since the signing of the FAB on 15 October 2012. There has been much progress both in the substance and in the ‘languaging’ of the texts.”
She said there has been an “important breakthrough” on the principles that will guide the “intergovernmental relations” between the Central and Bangsamoro governments and constituent parts.
“An example is the principle to settle conflicts in laws, programs or policies in a non-adversarial manner. This way harmony is maintained between and among the parts not only under the P-Noy administration but also under all future national administrations,” she said.

Ferrer said the three lists defining the allocation of powers – what are reserved to the Central government, devolved or exclusive to the Bangsamoro, and concurrent –  “are almost complete” and make up the bulk of the Annex on Power-sharing.

She said the two sides need to discuss “only about four power-sharing issues” which, she admitted, “are substantial and rather technical.”
She said both parties had agreed to “solicit advice from technical experts” to help them find workable solutions.
She also said there is a “working consensus on a new and better sharing formula in relation to government revenues derived from the exploration and utilization of natural resources.”

“This wealth-sharing formula, a set of devolved taxes, and the system of block grants reflect the mutual desire of the two parties to achieve sustainable self-governance and fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro,” her message read.

Ferrer said the two panels will present to the public “soon” a “jointly produced road map that shall serve as the official guide to the implementation of the FAB.”

 

She said they are open to “consider options on the remaining eight or so issues, across the annexes, including the ‘technical impasse’ pertaining to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

“We firmly believe that there is no deal-breaker in this process, in which much trust and effort have been invested, and for which much more support will be given,” she said.

The signing of the FAB was among the “historic feats” cited by President Aquino in his New Year’s Message.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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