Signing of GPH-MILF wealth-sharing annex: not as euphoric but still historic

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 July) –  The mood may not have been as euphoric as it was in early October when the final text of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was agreed upon but the final crafting and signing of the Annex on Wealth-Sharing between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on July 13, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur is still historic: it was forged five days short of the 16th anniversary of the signing of the June 18, 1997 ceasefire declaration between the GPH and MILF;  it was the longest ever negotiation in the 16-year talks; and it happened on the 10th death anniversary of the MILF’s founder and first chair, Salamat Hashim.

The six-paragraph Joint Statement and the eight-page Annex on Wealth-Sharing, were actually signed in the early hours of July 14, at around 12:07 a.m but the Wealth-Sharing deal was sealed at around 10:40 p.m., at around the same time on October 6, 2012 when the panels sealed the deal of what is now the FAB.

The FAB provides for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, allows for a transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro government, by June 30, 2016.

Under the FAB, the parties were supposed to have finished all four Annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace pact: the annexes on Wealth-sharing, Power-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

Longest round

Last week’s round of negotiations was the longest in the 16-year talks, a day longer than the final round of talks that led to the signing of the FAB, even as both rounds took six days.

The signing of the Annex capped the 11-month negotiation on wealth-sharing that was started in August by the technical working groups.

The talks in October were scheduled from October 2 to 5 and had two extensions like this recently-ended round.  As early as October 3, the panels had agreed to extend the talks until October 6, to allow for then GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen to fly to Manila for final consultations with the President and his Cabinet on the last draft from the negotiating table.

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who took over as chair in December after Leonen was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, did not have to fly to Manila for final consultations in Malacanang.

The President sent Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Deles stayed on until the midnight signing.

At 2:08 p.m. on Saturday, Deles told MindaNews in a text message: “Talks still ongoing. Rough but moving.”

Asked on Sunday if the President’s instruction was not to leave Kuala Lumpur until the annex is signed, Deles replied, “No – but that was everyone’s prayer.”

In October, panels agreed to extend again from October  6 to 7 but actually ended negotiations at around 10:40 p.m. on October 6.  On October 7, as the panels met in plenary at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses, they watched on the huge screen a video feed from Malacanang, as the President addressed the nation, that an agreement on the Bangsamoro had been reached.

The sixth day of the talks in October was intended only to close that round and for the President’s formal announcement. The grand signing would happen in Malacanang on October 15, 2012.

Unlike the October round where negotiations actually ended at around 10:40 p.m. on the fifth day, the final crafting of the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was the longest day as the panels were still negotiating until they could finally agree on the final text of the Annex at around 10:40 p.m. on July 13, 2013, the sixth day.

Asked what led to the breakthrough, GPH peace panel chair Ferrer told MindaNews in a text message, “everything.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews in a text message: “I am pleased but right now I still see the bumpy road ahead. There are still many challenges ahead.”

The signing of the wealth-sharing annex coincided with the tenth death anniversary of Salamat Hashim. Hashim succumbed to an illness in Lanao del Sur on July 13, 2003 but his death was announced only on August 4, when the MILF had chosen its new leader,  Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Ebrahim was vice chair for military affairs and concurrent chair of the MILF peace panel. Iqbal succeeded Ebrahim as peace panel chair.

After Ramadhan

The Joint Statement was silent on the next round of talks but MindaNews sources from both panels said they will resume talks on the remaining Annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization, after the Ramadhan.

The text of the eight-page Annex on Wealth-Sharing has not been posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process as of 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Only the Joint Statement has been posted, part of which states that “in a show of true commitment,” they extended the talks twice “to overcome their concerns and reach an agreement on the Annex.”

“The Parties believe that the Annex, which forms part of the FAB, will provide sufficient guidance for the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s provisions on wealth sharing and revenue generation for the Bangsamoro as envisioned by the FAB,” it said.

It also noted that “progress” was made by the Technical Working Group on Normalization and the special team on power sharing.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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