What’s P-Noy game plan on Bangsamoro issue?

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

The P-Noy government has vowed to resolve the Bangsamoro issue in Mindanao within its six-year-term ending in June 2016, and the presidential adviser on the peace process has assured that the government intends to implement all its commitments under the final peace agreements.

Yet by its moves lately the government seems to be moving into a tight spot. Which gives rise to the question: what’s P-Noy’s game plan on the Bangsamoro issue?

For instance, the government is taking time setting the date for resuming the formal negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the penultimate phase of the GPH-MILF peace talks. The negotiations involve forging agreements on three annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (the prospective political entity to replace the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao). The FAB was signed in Malacanang in August 2012.

The apparent foot-dragging and certain government actions have caused the MILF leadership to publicly express its impatience and misgivings over GPH sincerity in sealing a final peace accord.

MILF vice chair Ghadzali Jaafar recently publicly stated that the government might be deliberately delaying the talks.

Jaafar also protested the arrest of four MILF fighters for alleged illegal possession of ammunition, despite a long-term ceasefire agreement under which the fighters are allowed to keep their firearms and ammunition. “Some MILF leaders,” he said, tend to believe the arrests were deliberate violations of the ceasefire

Meantime, the government has been impelled to resume formal peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front, headed by Nur Misuari, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in August. Preliminary talks are set to be held next week (June 17-19), between the panels headed by Misuari and Teresita Deles, presidential peace adviser.

Note that the MNLF, not the government, announced the resumption of the talks. Spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla told The STAR last Wednesday that the discussions will focus on implementing rules and guidelines on the provisions of the Final Peace Agreement, signed on September 2, 1996.

For years the MNLF has protested the failure of the government, since the time of President Cory Aquino, to fully implement the FPA. Only the P-Noy government has promised to completely carry out the terms of the agreement, in consideration of preserving and enhancing its relations with the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, specifically the oil-rich states led by Saudi Arabia.

The OIC recognizes the MNLF, under Misuari’s leadership, as representative of the Muslims in Mindanao and allows the organization to sit as observer in its conferences.

Towards this end, in February 2011 the government engaged in tripartite discussions with the MNLF and the OIC in Jeddah. It then agreed to take certain steps by mid-2011 but failed to do so.

Last February the OIC met in Cairo, Egypt and issued a communiqué reiterating the need to resolve the Bangsamoro issue promptly. It urged the GPH and MNLF to continue efforts to find solutions to pending issues, such as the territorial scope of the regional autonomous government, revenue sharing, and defining “strategic minerals,” in the context of the 1972 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 FPA.

Top among the concerns in the Jeddah talks are the territorial scope (of what’s now the ARMM) and the sharing of natural resources, specifically mineral resources in the area of autonomy.

These are also the subjects of the pending negotiations on the annexes to the FAB in the delayed GPH-MILF peace talks. Draft documents, produced after several negotiations, pertain to power sharing between the prospective Bangsamoro and the national government in an “asymmetrical” relationship, and wealth sharing wherein the MILF proposes a 75-25 formula in favor of Bangsamoro, among others.

The government’s task is to synchronize the provisions of the FPA with those of the FAB since they both pertain to the same autonomous political entity embodying the aspirations, rights and welfare of the Bangsamoro people.

Can it do this satisfactorily for both the MILF and MNLF? How soon can it wind up and seal the agreements with both the MILF and MNLF?

Whereas the MILF waxed optimistic that agreements on power and wealth sharing had been almost completed, it has been dismayed by P-Noy’s ordering a thorough review of the documents before resuming the formal negotiations. The GPH chief negotiator has added salt to the wound by saying the MILF should give up some of their demands to achieve a final peace agreement.

Delay in completing the annexes has already stalled the work of the Transition Council, the all-Muslim-member body headed by the MILF peace panel chair. The body is mandated under the FAB to draft the charter of the Bangsamoro, to be submitted for approval by Congress and ratification by the people in the defined areas.

Once ratified, Bangsamoro would replace the ARMM. A transition mechanism would be put in place with sufficient time to ensure a smooth turnover of governance, and prepare the ground for holding popular elections of its first batch of officials in 2016.

In the May elections P-Noy made sure his ally, Mujiv Hataman, retained the ARMM governorship, and has poured billions in ARMM projects. Is he preparing Hataman to vie for the Bangsamoro top post, or what?

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E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
June 15, 2013

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