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PH gov’t, MILF meet anew in Malaysia to reassess peace process

/ 01:41 PM February 11, 2016

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continue to hold talks in Malaysia as they “assess means of moving forward” after Congress failed to approve the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

In a statement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said the two parties remain optimistic on the said matter.

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READ: GPH-MILF peace panels meet in KL after non-passage of BBL

“Despite the extraordinary efforts of our teams and all the other tireless peace advocates and congressional allies who traveled with us in this difficult journey of a thousand miles, we saw the session days in Congress wither away, without a BBL in sight,” said Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief negotiator of the Philippine government.

“With humility, we accept the weaknesses and imperfections of our efforts,” she said in a speech on Wednesday.

Ferrer said looking at the sum of the total shows that they have gained despite the failure to pass the BBL, which should pave for the creation of a new autonomous political entity.

“We have made life better for the people in the periods of sustained ceasefire, and through the many capacity development programs and socio-economic activities that have flourished,” she said.

“Many of those who were 10-14 year-old children when we started out in 2010 are now about to enter the cusp of adulthood with a stronger sense of the value of life and human dignity,” she added. “Instead of learning the ropes of warfare, they experienced relative peace. Like most children used to hard life, they have solid dreams for a better future for their families.”

The MILF and the Philippine government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

READ: Philippines, MILF sign peace agreement

However, the BBL, which is supposed to implement parts of the agreement, has yet to be enacted into law. It was stalled in Congress after a series of debates and the controversial Mamasapano operation, which left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers and 17 MILF fighters dead. With Congress adjourning session until after the May elections, it will be up to the next administration to continue the peace process.

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Ferrer raised the various challenges that the BBL will face in the next Congress.

“In the Senate we generally foresee a majority who will be supportive of a good BBL being obtained… The House probably remains the bigger challenge given these figures: almost half are re-electionists, a good number are running unopposed, others are relatives of incumbents,” she explained.

Ferrer said the next President will have less leverage because of reforms in the budget system and the scrapping of pork barrel. However, she said the new leader “will enjoy a honeymoon period and will harvest many of the turncoats and can therefore heavily influence the movements in the House.”

“As for the best legislative tack in the next Congress, several questions are relevant: Would it simply entail a refilling of a BBB (Bangsamoro Basic Bill)? Which version? Are the prospects rife for constitutional change? What to expect? Who would be the champions for peace and the Bangsamoro?” she asked.

Meanwhile, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said their men have “accused the government of resorting again to delaying tactic and just managing the conflict in Mindanao.”

Nevertheless, he said, “[T]he MILF and the government shall jointly find ways and means to address this dangerous situation and avoid actions that may increase the frustrations. We must provide them hope that there is a chance for passage of [a] CAB-compliant BBL whoever will be the next President.”

Ferrer said the two parties will need to work harder. “We should listen more, engage more. This cause is ours, and so the main burden is ours.”

“Precisely because we persevered, we have reached this far in the process,” she said.

Also present in the meetings were European Union (EU) Ambassador Franz Jessen, United Kingdom Representative to the International Contact Group (ICG) Thomas Phipps, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Chair Mo Bleeker, Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) Chair Mustafa Pulat and Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) Chair Alistair MacDonald. Representing Malaysia as third-party facilitator was Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.

READ: Malaysia not giving up on Mindanao peace process – envoy

“The journey has not yet ended but the meeting today demonstrates that the perseverance and commitment have not been lost. The Parties, meeting here today, are proving that they, that you, are resilient and truly committed to peace. This is an important message to the public,” Jessen said.

He said the meetings are crucial as these will not only reassess but also reschedule and prepare for the next phase of the peace process. RAM

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TAGS: Bangsamoro basic law, BBL, Malaysia, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, OPAPP, Peace Process, PH gov’t
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