Year 2013 is fruitful for gov’t peace panel PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 December 2013 14:06

Year 2013 is virtually a fruitful year for the government’s peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

It was in January this year when the GPH and MILF panels completed the first annex — on transitional arrangement and modalities — to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), the supposed basis for a final peace compact, which both sides wants to accomplish before 2016.

“The year 2013 is the year wherein we came to terms with what are easily `doable’ to get to the first ever duly mandated Bangsamoro government in 2016,” the GPH panel said in an official statement emailed by the Mindanao press bureau of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

OPAPP’s press bureau quoted the government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, as saying she is optimistic the GPH and MILF panels can jointly finalize the annex on normalization during the January 2014 formal talks in Malaysia.

The two panels are focused on replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new, comprehensively empowered Bangsamoro political entity, as one of the objectives of the peace talks.

The wealth-sharing annex to the FAB was signed by the two panels in July this year, after thorough deliberations in a series of talks in Malaysia. The annex on power-sharing was finalized by the two panels in early December 2013.

The GPH panel is optimistic it can iron out with its MILF counterpart the remaining normalization annex to the FAB during the formal talks in Malaysia in January 2014.

It was also this year when the government launched its “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” program, a convergence of government services and interventions now being implemented directly in Moro enclaves inside MILF strongholds in Mindanao.

The Sajahatra program was jointly launched by President Benigno Aquino III, and the MILF’s figurehead, Hadji Murad Ebrahim, at the municipality of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao in February 2013. The MILF’s main and largest enclave, Camp Darapanan, is located in the northwest of Sultan Kudarat.

There were troubles in Central Mindanao instigated by the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) this year, but the hostilities did not affect the GPH-MILF talks.

The BIFF, led by religious extremists who are feared for their ruthless Taliban-style enforcement of justice system in areas where they operate, is not covered by the government-MILF July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

A spate of bombings this year in Southern Mindanao, including the deadly siege on several barangays in Zamboanga City by followers of Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front, also did not dampen the zeal of the GPH and MILF panels to pursue the peace talks.

“By early next year, we aim to finalize the remaining annex on normalization, as well as the addendum on the Bangsamoro waters,” the GPH peace panel said.

It was also this year when the GPH and MILF bilaterally established the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,  which is comprised of representatives from the government and the MILF.

The commission, which is to oversee the setting up of a new Bangsamoro entity that would replace the now 24-year ARMM, is chaired by the MILF’s chief negotiator, Muhaquer Iqbal.

The peace talks between the government and the MILF started January 7, 1997. The overture, repeatedly punctuated by security problems in areas covered by the GPH-MILF ceasefire, gained headway in 2003 with the help of Malaysia as facilitator.

The European Union, Norway, Japan, various international peace advocacy organizations, and several member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim countries, including petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa, have also been assisting in the GPH-MILF peace talks.