Iqbal says MILF got “much more than the ARMM” for the future Bangsamoro

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not get everything that it proposed to the Philippine government’s (GPH) peace panel on the issue of wealth-sharing and revenue generation but MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said they secured for the future Bangsamoro government “much more than the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).”

Iqbal told MindaNews in a text message Sunday morning that what the MILF got in the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing in terms of taxing powers, shares in revenues, natural resources and block grant “strengthen the ancestral domain doctrine.”

But does the signed annex reflect a major shift from the “status quo” and correct the power relations between the Bangsamoro and the national government?  Does it represent what  Iqbal referred to in his opening statement in Kuala Lumpur on July 8, as “a major shake-up  of the status quo?”

“The best way to know the difference is to make comparisons,” he told MindaNews.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the persistence and goodwill of both parties “bore fruit.

“We have a good package, one that we believe would make fiscal autonomy in the Bangsamoro a reality,” Ferrer was quoted in a press statement issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Sunday afternoon.

The Annex, the second of four annexes to the FAB that would complete the comprehensive peace pact  “seeks to fulfill the aspirations for meaningful autonomy for Muslim Mindanao that was envisioned in the Constitution” and “will correct the flaws in the current fiscal system in the ARMM,” she said.

‘Status quo is unacceptable’

The two panels had agreed in the April 2012 Decision Points, carried over into the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in  October,  that “the status quo is unacceptable and that the Parties will work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity in place of the ARMM.”

In his July 8 opening statement in on July 8, Iqbal reiterated that solving the problem that has been laid down on the negotiating table for the last 16 years “requires a major shake-up of the status quo.”

“For the nth time, I must mention here that we are solving the Moro Problem or Question, not the Philippine Problem. Remember that a ‘historic injustice’ has been committed against the Bangsamoro, which must be corrected once and for all in order to put to rest all future legitimate struggles against the Manila government,” he said.

Iqbal explained that “a mere resort to legal remedies not founded on negotiated political settlement will not hold water.”

He said the parties had earlier agreed to an “asymmetrical relationship” between the Bangsamoro and the national government. “This means the parties must find a political solution that is above the current ARMM and below independence.”

8-page Annex

The text of the eight-page Annex signed at midnight in Kuala Lumpur has not been released to the public.

As of 5 p.m.  Sunday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has yet to upload the Annex on its website. The MILF’s website, luwaran.com, has not posted the Joint Statement and the Annex.

MindaNews was told by the OPAPP’s communications team in KL that copies of the Annex would be released “tomorrow (Monday) during Malacanang press briefing.”

There is no explanation as to why copies of the Annex will be released only on Monday, instead of Sunday. On October 7, as soon as President Aquino announced that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro had been reached, copies of the document were immediately uploaded in websites of Malacanang’s Official Gazette and the OPAPP.

MindaNews sources in the Bangsamoro peace process said among the salient provisions in the eight-page Annex is that in terms of taxation, Central Government (national government) taxes, fees and charges collected in the Bangsamoro, other than tariff and customs duties,” shall be on a 75%-25% sharing in favor of the Bangsamoro.  (The sharing system in the ARMM is  70-30 in its favor except for strategic minerals which is 50-50, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman told MindaNews).

According to the Annex, the share of the Bangsamoro from these taxes can even be 100%, for a limited period, because the Annex provides that the Bangsamoro Basic Law “may provide that the 25% due to the Central Government will be remitted to the Bangsamoro for a limited period of time.”

The Annex also provides that all taxing powers already devolved to the ARMM by R.A. No. 9054 and other legislations will be exercised by the Bangsamoro.

RA 9054 which amended RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM, provides that “unless otherwise provided,” the taxing power of the ARMM and its member-provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangay shall not extend to the following: “income tax, except when levied on banks and other financial institutions; documentary stamps tax; taxes on estate, inheritance, gifts, legacies, and other acquisitions mortis causa, except as otherwise provided by law.”

The Annex does not give the Bangsamoro powers over income tax as the MILF had proposed but both parties agreed that the power to collect the capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax and estate tax within the Bangsamoro would be devolved to the Bangsamoro.

If the taxable elements are not situated entirely within the Bangsamoro, the Annex provides that the intergovernmental fiscal policy board which shall address problems relating to implementation.

 Natural resources

In terms of natural resources, the Annex provides that the Bangsamoro share from incomes derived from the “exploration, development and utilization of all natural resources within the Bangsamoro” shall be:

– 100% to the Bangsamoro and its local government units for non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel, and quarry resources;

– 75% to the Bangsamoro for metallic minerals within the Bangsamoro; and

– 50% to the Bangsamoro and 50% to the Central Government for “fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal)  and uranium but the parties “shall endeavor to provide for a review mechanism in the Basic Law with regard to this sharing arrangement.”

The shares of the Bangsamoro from the natural resources revenues include those for its constituent local government units, the Annex states.

Under RA 9054, sharing between the national government and the ARMM is 50%-50% in terms of “taxes or fees derived from the use and development of the strategic  minerals.”

The Annex has removed “strategic minerals” as a category. “No more strategic minerals classification. That is a tricky description. (For) gas, oil, coal, uranium, it’s 50-50 with possible increase in the future,” said Iqbal.

The other features of the Annex are contained in the eight-page document.

MindaNews sources said the Annex has 12 sections, the last one on gender and development, which mandates the Bangsamoro to set aside at least 5% of  the development funds it will receive, for support programs and activities for women.

The panels are set to meet again in August, after the Ramadhan, to finish the annexes on Power-sharing and Normalization.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Comments

comments