Support for Framework Agreement is “parang tsunami;” UN, OIC express support, too

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 October) – The overwhelming support for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) reached between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front late Saturday evening is “parang tsunami” (like a tsunami), a leader of a non-governmental organization here said, as more nations and organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly Conference) have issued statements expressing support and hopes for peace.

“It’s obvious that the support is overwhelming, it’s like a tsunami,” Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue told a forum on the FAB with government peace panel member Senen Bacani at the Apo View Hotel here Thursday morning.

Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the 57-nation OIC, in a statement dated October 10, expressed hope that the agreement “will pave the way for a just and lasting peace for the Bangsamoro people who have suffered too long and endured huge sacrifices.”

“The OIC has been seized with this problem since its foundation,” the press statement issued by Ihasnoglu’s spokesperson, said. The OIC brokered the talks between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which led to the signing of the  Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and the Final Peace Agreement in 1996. The MNLF has been sitting in the OIC as observer  since 1977.

The OIC recently served as observer in the GPH-MILF talks although it has been receiving a joint delegation of MNLF and MILF officials in OIC meetings since 2001.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement from New York on October 8, welcomed the “landmark agreement” and expressed his “ heartfelt wishes for peace and prosperity to the Government and the people of the Philippines, in particular the people of Bangsamoro.”

Ready to assist

He said the UN “stands ready to provide assistance to the parties, as needed, in implementing the Framework Peace Agreement.”

In 2005, the OIC ,then already under Ihsanoglu, initiated the Tripartite Process “to overcome the difficulties in implementing the 1996 Final Peace Agreement” between the GPH and MNLF. The latter has been sitting in the OIC as observer  since 1977.

In 2006, it dispatched a fact-finding mission to Mindanao to look into the implementation of the then 10-year old FPA. As a result, the Tripartite Review composed of representatives of GPH, MNLF and the OIC, was convened.

Ihsanoglus aid the OIC “will continue to monitor the developments and to offer assistance to all parties to consolidate their endeavors to reach this noble goal of peace and prosperity for the population.”

Huge step forward

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said the agreement “has the potential finally to end the long-running conflict” and full implementation by 2016 “can bring about peace, security, and development that will be good not only for Mindanao, but for the whole of the Philippines.”

Hague said UK, a member of the International Contact Group in the GPH-MILF talks, stands “ready to provide further assistance if such a role would be valuable to the parties.”

Ambassador Stepehen Lillie of the British Embassy in Manila said the GPH-MILF peace process “has taken a huge step forward with this framework agreement.”

Earlier, the governments of the United States, Australia, Japan and Switzerland also issued statements of support.

Support from ARMM 

In a statement, Mujiv Hataman, OIC Governor of the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said that since they assumed post in late December last year, the regional government “has been very supportive of the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF.”

“In fact, the current regional government has noted, several times, that it is willing to serve as a transitional government in case a peace pact is inked in the near future,” he said, adding the reforms being undertaken in the region, “are also geared towards helping the government and the MILF eradicate the problems on corruption, poverty, and an unstable peace and order situation,” he said.

In the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles on April 24 this year, the parties agreed to set up a “new autonomous political entity” in place of the ARMM. The new entity is the “Bangsamoro.”

Hataman has attended the peace negotiations thrice and was there during the first two days of negotiations last week.

From academe

In a statement, the Ateneo de Davao University’s Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Studies and Dialogue said it will “play a significant role in providing space for ‘voices’ on all sides of the issue and to encourage an environment of inclusivity among the different Muslims, Christians and Lumads in Mindanao.”

“Ateneo de Davao University welcomes this new challenge for the people of Central and Western Mindanao. The University recognizes that aside from the conflict, there is a pervading misunderstanding and mis-representation of Islam and the Muslims. This disunity of understanding has prevented Muslims in fully integrating themselves into the mainstream Philippine society. In its mission to promote inter-religious dialogue and cultural sensitivity, the University through its Al Qalam Institute is setting up the Ateneo School of Islamic Studies (ASIS). It will focus on Islamic foundations of entrepreneurship, leadership and governance, as well as in Science and Technology most especially in environment, climate, agriculture and eco-land management,” it said.

“After more than four decades of bloodshed on both sides, 15 years of peace negotiations, countless mothers burying their dead, fathers fighting with grief in their hearts, at long last the land of Mindanao sighs relief. Yet we wait. We will wait and we will endure patiently!” it said.

Translate to other languages and dialects

Saying it agrees that the ARMM is a failed experiment, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy said “the challenge now is in the transition to the new political entity, the Bangsamoro. That it will be well managed, that the structures to be set up start on the right footing and that funds for development are professionally used, with transparency and accountability.”

“Forging the accord was daunting but it was accomplished with trust, sincerity and openness on both sides to search for loftier common ground while respecting each other’s differences. But the greater challenge is the transition period. It would be make or break for Muslim Mindanao. MILF and all stakeholders of the Bangsamoro must be able to quickly maneuver to the new peace and development formation, or risk permanent failure on top of the flawed ARMM experiment.”

It also expressed hope that the MNLF, which it described as a major stakeholder in the peace process “be effectively engaged” as well in the transition period.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers, the largest network of peace groups in Mindanao lauded the GPH and MILF “for finally and resolutely deciding that the time of conflict and war is over, and that a paradigm founded on peace is now due for Mindanao and the rest of the country.”

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus called on “all political leaders not only to express support but also to provide avenues wherein people will be able to take an active part in discussing and debating on the substance of the agreement.”

It also suggested that the agreement be translated into major languages and dialects to promote better understanding.

The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) said the agreement “provides the roadmap of a process to build the foundation for an inclusive, responsive and efficient infrastructure for peace and development in the southern Philippines.”

“The road to genuine Moro autonomy and self-governance is forked, unpaved and full of bumps and turns. Overcoming the obstacles requires openness by all stakeholders to change and sacrifice toward achieving the peace that we so long for,” it said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)