Beng: Comprehensive, inclusive peace but no to BBL inclusion PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 May 2015 17:44

By Jasmine Mohammadsali

A comprehensive and inclusive peace pact that addresses all grievances and is consistent with the Constitution.

This was the equivocal stand of the City Government delivered by Mayor Beng Climaco and the members of the City Council during the public hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) Thursday afternoon, May 14, spearheaded by the Senate Committee on Local Governance and Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation.

“We expect Congress to pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which is consistent and harmonious with and not contrary to the 1987 Philippine Constitution; a law that truly addresses grievances that bring about secession and armed conflicts in the Southern Philippines and not merely for appeasement; a law that treats every Mindanaoan on even keel; a law that respects the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines,” she declared.

Climaco emphasized, however, that while the City is fully supportive of the peace initiatives of President Noynoy Aquino to end decades’ long hostilities in Mindanao, Zamboanga City remains firm in its position to be excluded from the Bangsamoro.

“The City should never form part nor be included in the Bangsamoro – now or ever,” Climaco said.

She noted the people of Zamboanga has consistently rejected the inclusion of the City in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in both the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites, and in its firm opposition to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) in 2008.

The chief executive categorically enumerated the basic positions of the City on the Bangsamoro which are as follows: that neither of its 98 component barangays nor any part, zone or sitio should be included in the Bangsamoro; that the municipal waters of the City as defined under the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and delineated in the Fisheries Ordinance of the City of Zamboanga shall remain as the municipal waters of the City without alteration on its territorial boundaries; that the commercial fishing industry must have free access to deep-sea fishing governed only by existing laws and regulations of the national government, not the Bangsamoro.

Climaco also brought up the issue of ARMM properties situated in non-ARMM areas, specifically the parcels of land in Cabatangan which remains registered under the ARMM.

According to Climaco, the Cabatangan properties, as well as several real properties in the name of the    Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) must be ceded and transferred to national government prior to the passage of the BBL in order to ‘preserve and ensure the integrity, contiguity and to prohibit dismemberment’ of the City’s territorial boundaries.

Chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the hearing invited stakeholders and resource persons to share their positions in a bid to glean the unfiltered thoughts and opinions of the people of Mindanao regarding the BBL. At least 23 position papers were submitted to the Committee and expounded.

Among the most prevalent points raised in the hearing were issues on the role and inclusion of indigenous peoples (IP) in the Bangsamoro, the lack of consultation with stakeholders such as the Sultanate and the IPs, the 10% opt-in provision, the distribution and allocation of resources, and the deemed constitutional infirmities of the proposed law.

According to Senator Marcos, the provisions of the BBL need to be scrutinized and amended, as necessary, to ensure that it does violate the Constitution.

Moreover, the priority of the Senate is not the scheduled timeline for the passage of the BBL but to do all measures necessary to “get it [BBL] right”.

Towards this end, several public hearings have been slated by the Committee until the end of May in different areas in Mindanao.

“There is no substitute for the Committee to glean the sentiments of the people but to go to the localities,” said Marcos even as he assured the public that the Senate will be objective in its study and amendments of the BBL.

Present during the public hearing were Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, City Mayor Beng Climaco, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde and the entire City Council, and District Representatives Celso Lobregat and Lilia Nuño.

Also present to share their positions and stands were the local leaders and chief executives of the local government units of surrounding regions and provinces, representatives of local and regional government agencies, the academe, the business sector, religious groups, civic society organizations, IP groups, and non-government organizations (NGOs). — Jasmine Mohammadsali