Mindanao’s civil society groups laud signing of Normalization annex

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/25 January)—Civil society leaders in Mindanao lauded the signing of the Annex on Normalization, the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels signed the normalization annex, along with the Addendum (to the annexes on Wealth- and Power-sharing) on the Bangsamoro waters, late Saturday afternoon during the 43rd Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This would pave the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace agreement between the GPH and the MILF.

The CAB will contain the FAB and its four annexes. The FAB, which the parties agreed on October 15, 2012 in Malacanang, envisions the creation of the Bangsamoro government that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2016.

The parties signed the FAB’s three other Annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Sharing and Wealth Generation, and Power Sharing in separate occasions last year in Malaysia, the third party facilitator.

The Annex on Normalization basically seeks the decommissioning of MILF forces and returning back to normal the condition in communities affected by the armed conflict.

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles said the signing of the normalization annex will pave the way for the signing of the CAB.

“This is indeed a long-awaited moment that is a gift to our people at the start of a new year of renewed hope and commitment,” she said in a statement shortly after the two GPH and MILF peace panels signed the document.

“It has been a very difficult road arriving at this major milestone of the peace process.  The crafting of each of the four Annexes, together with the additional Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, underwent painstaking deliberation by the two parties, backed up by thorough discussion and internal consensus-building on each side of the negotiating table, and grounded on extensive consultations with concerned local government units, religious and civil society leaders, and communities especially in the conflict-affected areas,” Deles added.

The signing of the Annex on Normalization drew cheers from different stakeholders in Mindanao.

“2014 is going to be a year of peace for Mindanao. With the signing of the last and final annex of the FAB on Normalization, the comprehensive peace agreement is practically achieved. Kudos to the peace panels,” said Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC).

Arnado thanked the men women in and out of the negotiations for the wonderful development in the GPH-MILF peace process today.

“I’m calling on all Mindanawons to rally behind this political settlement formula.

I am appealing to all political leaders to support this agreement in letter and spirit,” she said.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (MINCODE), a coalition of 12 networks of non-government organizations and people’s organizations in Mindanao, said her group will continue to support the next steps towards the creation of the Bangsamoro government.

“Great blessings today! With the signing of the Normalization annex, the last annex to the FAB, we move closer to the creation of the Bangsamoro,” she said.

Sarenas thanked the members of the GPH and the MILF panels and their respective technical working groups, Deles and all the peace advocates and civil society organizations who also worked to raise awareness about the issues.

She also cited President Benigno S. Aquino III “for staying the course by always being “on top” of the processes and providing unwavering support and inspiration.”

Prof. Ali T. Yacub, president of the Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliates based in Zamboanga City, also expressed jubilation with the signing of the normalization annex.

“Yes! Let us rejoice in solidarity with our government and the MILF peace panels for the dawn of peace in Mindanao. We pray to God Almighty to finally heal our devastated land,” Yacub said.

‘Collective endeavor for peace’

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman also hailed the GPH and MILF peace panels for successfully signing the Annex on Normalization.

“We commend the panels for persevering and braving the needed sacrifices and heeding the clamor of the great majority of Filipinos for a peaceful resolution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao,” he said.

“Since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the autonomous regional government has committed to offer its full support to the southern peace process. And as we promised, we are more than willing to sacrifice while we prepare the bureaucracy for a smooth transition of power towards the new political setup,” Hataman added.

He also congratulated “all those who took part, the leaders and individuals, who have, directly or indirectly, become part of this success— a leap to our collective endeavor in attaining peace in this part of the country.” (MindaNews)