GPH, MILF panels to meet again to iron out draft BBL’s contents PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 11:52

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are optimistic on reaching consensus on the remaining thorny provisions of the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) in another ten-day negotiation to begin on August 18.

GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on Monday said both sides had resolved some of the misunderstandings on the contents of the draft BBL’s preamble and other “basic articles” during their initial August 1-10 meeting at a seaside resort hotel in Davao City.

“The two panels will present and discuss what had been accomplished in that meeting with their respective principals,” Ferrer said, apparently referring to President Benigno Aquino III, and the MILF’s figurehead, Hadji Murad Ebrahim.

The chairman of the MILF’s peace panel, Muhaquer Iqbal, has described as “very difficult and so challenging” their ten-day meeting with government peace brokers.

Iqbal is the presiding chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which drafted the proposed law. The BTC’s original version of the draft BBL was only more than 90 pages, but became more than 400 pages, filled with remarks and annotations, after a two-month review by lawyers in the Office of the President.

Ferrer said the GPH and MILF panels agreed to continue reconciling each other’s position on other important provisions of the draft BBL, particularly those pertaining to transition concerns, the structure of the Bangsamoro entity, and its supposed relationship with the national government.

Ferrer said the two panels are also still to iron out articles on fund grants for the proposed Bangsamoro political entity, and the annual budget needed for its operation.

The draft BBL, once enacted into law by Congress and ratified via a plebiscite in selected areas, shall, in effect, replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new, MILF-led Bangsamoro self-governing entity.

The ARMM, which has a “Little Malacañang,” the Office of the Regional Governor, and a “little Congress,” the 24-seat Regional Assembly, has been existing since 1990, first  under its pioneering charter, Republic Act 6734, which was amended to become R.A. 9054 through a referendum in 2001.

The ARMM, whose political seat is Cotabato City, covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in Central Mindanao, the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Ferrer and Iqbal, in a joint communiqué drafted just before Sunday’s culmination of their 10-day meeting in Davao City, reiterated the government and MILF’s commitment to agree on a common BBL draft, one that is acceptable to both parties.

They also both expressed gratitude to the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the regional government of ARMM, and the Ateneo School of Government for helping facilitate discussions during the August 1-10 meeting in Davao City.

Iqbal said the MILF remain steadfast in its conviction that only by means of peaceful negotiation can both parties solve the nagging Mindanao Moro issue.

“The only option is a peaceful negotiation, one leading to lasting peace in the homeland,” he said.

Peace talks between the GPH and MILF started January 7, 1997, almost four months after the crafting of the September 2, 1996 final peace accord between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.

The government-MNLF truce was signed by then President Fidel Ramos and the now fugitive Nur Misuari, wanted in connection with the deadly September 2013 siege by his men of several barangays in Zamboanga City.