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31 May, 2016

Philippines: Peace panels affirm partnership for continuity of Bangsamoro peace process

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 May 2016, (PNA) — The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels concluded their May 29-30 special meeting in the Malaysian capital with the signing of the Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership of the GPH and MILF in the Bangsamoro Peace Process.

In a joint statement, the peace panels asserted that the signing of the declaration “seeks to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the next administration.”

The Parties likewise signed two documents, the “Terms of Reference for the Establishment of the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund (BNTF), a multi-donor trust fund envisioned in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Annex on Normalization” as well as the Terms of Reference for the Project Board of the Mindanao Trust Fund for the Six Previously Acknowledged MILF Camps (MTF-RDP Camps Project).

The peace panels also congratulated President-elect Rodrigo Roa Duterte, expressing their “optimism that the roadmap provided for in the CAB will be fully accomplished” within the term of the new President.

The incoming Peace Adviser of the President-elect lauded the affirmation of the GPH and MILF partnership while vowing to continue the momentum of the Bangsamoro peace process once the new administration takes over on June 30.

“In my capacity as Presidential Peace Adviser-Nominee to President-Elect Rodrigo R. Duterte, allow me to welcome with positive note the forging in Malaysia of the declaration of continuity in the search for sustainable peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Jesus G. Dureza said in a statement which was read during the special meeting of the GPH and MILF negotiating panels.

“We intend to continue with the gains and build on those already done and achieved. The roadmap that we will traverse hereon will take policy guidance and direction from the new President when he assumes office on June 30, 2016,” the statement continued.

Current GPH chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal welcomed Dureza’s statement. “We are very optimistic of the peace process going on a smooth transition to the next administration… It’s very clear that the Bangsamoro peace process and the overall agenda to resolve all armed conflicts that have divided the country would remain a very important national agenda,” said Ferrer.

Outgoing Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, also welcomed the statement of her successor who, like herself, will be holding the position of peace adviser twice. “The gesture is much appreciated, and in keeping with what incoming Secretary Dureza has said during our meeting last week,” said Deles, clarifying that she and Dureza have already met to discuss turnover and transition matters, which included the Bangsamoro peace process, among others.

The Bangsamoro peace process under the Aquino administration was jump-started by the meeting of President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan in August 2011. The first major document signed under the current administration was the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2012. This was followed by a series of signing of annexes, which culminated with the forging of the CAB.

The CAB served as basis for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will establish a parliamentary regional government with more political and fiscal autonomy than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Aside from the legislative track, the CAB also outlines socioeconomic and normalization provisions.

Deles said that while there remains unfinished business that they need to pass on to the incoming Administration, what they will turn over, however, is a better-positioned peace table that the Aquino government has worked hard to achieve in the past six years.

“What made the difference that we were able to achieve so much was President Aquino’s unwavering commitment to the process. It gained the trust of our partners in this peace table that got us through several stumbling blocks and challenges. And it is our hope that the same will continue on in the next Administration,” said Deles.

“How relevant it is to have an incoming chief executive who we feel that not only understands the fight of the Bangsamoro but more importantly speaks for it,” said Iqbal in his opening statement on Sunday. “We welcome the President-elect’s offer of a unifying hand in securing peace and development in Mindanao. After all, that is what we need for starters to move forward.”

“Sec Jess and I agreed that together with our teams, we will be working to ensure that there will be a seamless transition,” Deles narrated.

On her part, Ferrer made mention in her opening statement on Sunday that President Aquino has already formed a transition committee via an executive order to “coordinate with the lieutenants of the incoming president” and that “there have been instructions going on at different levels with the different agencies concerned, including the OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process].”

Dureza also highlighted the importance of the provisions of the signed agreements with the MILF. “We also take positive note of the formation of the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund.”

According to the CAB, the Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund is where donor country support, assistance, and pledges may be coursed. Normalization is the process through which communities affected by the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao can return to a peaceful life and pursue sustainable livelihoods free from fear of violence and crime. It involves the transition of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to a peaceful civilian life, which includes putting their weapons beyond use. It also involves the redress of unresolved legitimate grievances and the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas.

In the joint statement of the peace panels, they “expressed their appreciation to President Benigno S. Aquino III, under whose guidance and leadership, the peace agreements were signed; to Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak for his continued support to the Bangsamoro Peace Process, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles and to the members of the MILF Central Committee and Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for their commitment to continue the path to peace.”

They likewise thanked the Malaysian facilitator, International Contact Group, Third Party Monitoring Team, Independent Decommissioning Body and other members of the Bangsamoro peace mechanisms.