FASTRAC to provide technical support for next annexes and Bangsamoro Basic Law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 August) – After three months of delay, the United Nations-World Bank-Moro Islamic Liberation Front partnership dubbed Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC) has finally taken off to fast-track technical assistance to the MILF for the remaining two annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

FASTRAC’s Consultative Committee approved via a teleconference on July 29 the interim work plan until December this year.

The partnership, which runs for three years, was launched on April 29.

The work plan includes a number of initiatives to support the ongoing negotiations of the remaining annexes to the FAB, as well as forward looking support to the transition process.

A delegation from the World Bank (WB),  United Nations (UN), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Contact Group (ICG)  took the 4 a.m. flight from Manila to Cotabato City to attend the  two-hour meeting on July 29 but their plane was unable to land due to bad weather.

The plane was diverted to Davao City where most of the passengers disembarked to take the five-hour land trip to Cotabato City while the five officials who were supposed to attend the FASTRAC meeting in Cotabato City – among them WB’s Matt Stephens, UN’s Alma Evangelista,  Praveen Agrawal of World Food Programme (WFP), Emma Leslie of  the International Contact Group  (ICG) — returned to Manila.

“After the plane dropped 700 feet over Cotabato  in huge storm, pilot thankfully decided to divert to Davao,” Leslie told MindaNews. “Cebu Pacific was not given clearance for Cotabato so it landed in Davao and finally returned to Manila carrying just the crew and five FASTRAC consultative committee members.

The work plan includes a number of initiatives to support the ongoing negotiations of the remaining annexes to the FAB, as well as forward looking support to the transition process.

The UN and World Bank launched Fastrac on April 29 in partnership with the MILF  a three-year program that would provide on-demand technical assistance in the run-up to the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the ARMM by June 30, 2016.

FASTRAC,  now joined by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is  tasked to  provide “on-demand advisory services and access to the most relevant national and international expertise to contribute and help move forward with the peace process especially in the drafting of the Basic Law that will reflect the Bangsamoro people’s aspirations for genuine autonomy while establishing the basis for efficient and accountable government,” UN Resident Director Luiza Carvalho said during the launch.

A Consultative Committee composed of representatives from the  GPH and MILF peace panels,  donor partners, and the ICG  will “provide strategic guidance to the facility, agree through consensus on quarterly work plans, and review progress and results of the support provided.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, concurrent Bangsamoro Transition chair and chair of the FASTRAC Consultative Committee, told the Consultative Committee via Skype that he  hopes the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing “will push faster the pace of our work.”

“To recall and give emphasis, this Facility has been conceptualized to address the asymmetry in terms of capacity between the MILF and the GPH. While the GPH enjoys enormous resource both fiscal and human as well as a wealth of experience, the MILF is just starting in this venture. This Facility therefore looks at deploying technical expertise to the MILF and its agencies so that the MILF can smoothly transition from rebels to governance and cope up with all the accompanying skills and knowledge acquisition that will be required in this challenging process,” he said.

He also noted how they “must reckon with the herculean task of building a bureaucracy for the Bangsamoro and the accompanying task of allowing a massive public participation process for the Bangsamoro people so that we can as one nation own this process,” he said.

The parties are currently engaged in negotiating the contents of the two remaining annexes to the FAB on Power Sharing and Normalization.

According to the FASTRAC Interim Work Plan, the MILF is seeking support from FASTRAC on four points: support to the political negotiations process, through technical notes on the still unresolved  issues; support to the transition to the Bangsamoro through mapping of priority areas for intervention and current partner support; conceiving a ministerial form of government as both sides had earlier agreed that this would be the form of government of the Bangsamoro; and  support to the Transition Commission in preparing the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

On August 1, three days after the Consultative Committee meeting via Skype, senior members of the MILF led by Iqbal visited the UN office in Makati City for another meeting with Matt Stephens and Nick Leffer of the World Bank joining, to discuss the next steps.

The delegation included MILF peace panel member  Prof. Abhoud Sayed Lingga, Ustadz Ibrahim Ali of the Transition Commission (TC) and Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, a member of the MILF peace pnael’s Technical Working Group on Normalization and UN Senior Advisor to FASTRAC.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)