Manila, MILF to discuss law in KL

manila milfBong S Sarmiento
GENERAL SANTOS CITY

THE peace panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will meet this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to iron out issues arising from the government’s proposed revisions to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the government’s chief negotiator said yesterday.

GPH chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which drafted the BBL, passed a resolution last Thursday “elevating the matter or process to the peace panels for clarification, discussion and resolution of issues that may have been affected by the proposed revisions in the proposed BBL, in the higher interest of finding a lasting solution to the conflict in Mindanao”.

“To begin with, neither the BTC draft nor the OP (Office of the President)-reviewed text is so complete and perfect to leave no more room for discussion, or no other option but to choose between one or the other,” she said in an emailed statement.

“Closed options have never been the practice in our past negotiation. It shouldn’t be now in the implementation stage. Then and now, ‘problem-solving’ has defined our modalities and this approach has produced the workable results that brought us this far,” Ferrer added.

She did not disclose the exact date but noted that BTC members, along with the International Contact Group, will also attend the workshop meeting in Malaysia, the third party facilitator.

The BBL will legalise the creation of the Bangsamoro government, which the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) envisions to establish in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The CAB is the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF after 17 years of negotiations.

Copies of the draft BBL as well as the revisions recommended by the Office of the President to the measure have not been made public.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator and concurrent BTC chairperson, said they remain optimistic the issues on the BBL revisions will be threshed out and that Congress would eventually approve the measure.

He earlier said that the Office of the President’s review and recommendations “heavily diluted the original proposal coming from the BTC”.

“But I don’t think we are in a hopeless situation. I don’t think the parties will allow the situation to degenerate into something we do not like. I still have confidence on both sides’ determination to overcome the perceived hardships ahead of us,” Iqbal said.

In thoroughly reviewing the draft BBL, Ferrer noted that President Benigno S Aquino III wants to “confidently” submit it as an urgent bill shortly after the reopening of Congress on July 28.

Ferrer said that for both the GPH and the MILF, “the bottom line is set by the signed documents that make up the CAB. There is no backtracking on either side. Any perception of backtracking can be duly addressed and rectified during the discussion”.

On the other hand, details beyond the signed documents are policy options that the BTC has taken and which the OP team took care to study and uphold as much as possible, she said.

“If we are going through this difficulty now, it is because we want the next stages to be less difficult not only between the government and the MILF, but among all the institutions and actors that will be or have been playing a role in the process. A well-processed bill that goes through the legislative mill, with the certification of the President as urgent, will stand much better chances of smooth-sailing passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Ferrer said.

The Brunei Times
Tue, 8 July 2014

http://www.bt.com.bn/news-asia/2014/07/08/manila-milf-discuss-law-kl

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