From the Business World (Jun 10): Tough talks on wealth, power
Resource and power sharing between the government and the future Bangsamoro region are among the challenging issues facing peace negotiators in completing the peace deal, chief government negotiator Miriam Colonel-Ferrer said yesterday.
Ms. Ferrer, who was in this city yesterday to confer with local officials, military officers, and civil society leaders, said both sides have remained open to find "creative" ways on overcoming hurdles in the negotiations.
"We are at this stage of trying to find solutions," she said in an interview.
Both sides are also working on the area of normalization which includes the disarmament of rebel forces.
The only annex that both sides have agreed on is the transitional modalities that detail the transfer of functions from the existing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the ministerial form of government of the future Bangsamoro region.
The discussions on the annexes have dragged on for six months.
With discussing details, Ms. Ferrer said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wants certain taxes to be collected by the future Bangsamoro regional government, but the government has questioned its feasibility due to lack of mechanisms.
The budgetary issue has also been an obstacle, she said, as the MILF views the outlay for the region as "automatically allocated."
"We have to do some realigning on the budgeting process," she added.
The issue on revenue derived from natural resources has likewise not been solved, Ms. Ferrer said, particularly on sharing proceeds from oil, mining and hydro power, among others.
She said the government panel is preparing a comprehensive draft on wealth sharing with inputs from the departments of Budget and Finance with the demands of the MILF in mind.
"We really have to find a middle ground and find that kind of balance," Ms. Ferrer said.
On power sharing, both sides have listed powers that will be reserved to the government and exclusive to the Bangsamoro, but she said gray areas remain such as the licensing and registration of vehicles and other modes of transportation.
At the weekend, the government has initiated an exchange of notes whereby several documents were forwarded via the Malaysian facilitator for the MILF to study and respond.
The documents outline the government’s positions on wealth and power sharing.
The MILF has yet to study and respond on the documents, Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, said on Sunday.
Both parties are running against time to arrive at a final peace deal.
Fatmawati Salapuddin, a Tausug member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and former official in the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos, said in a separate interview yesterday that based on the time frame, the commission should submit the proposed Basic Law to Congress in the second quarter of next year.
"[It would] be [submitted] July next year at the most," she said.
A referendum will take place for residents of provinces under the proposed Bangsamoro region to affirm their participation.
"We hope [the two parties could] reach an agreement as soon as possible," she said.
The peace talks between the government and the MILF begun in 1997. The Aquino administration has vowed to conclude the Moro self-determination aspiration before its term ends in 2016.
The protest was already filed by the MILF Ceasefire Committee involving four members of the MILF arrested in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.
According to the MILF Ceasefire Committee all the arrested MILF members are innocent, citing “the one arrested in Lambayong Sultan Kudarat was on his way back home when arrested, those arrested in Polomolok, South Cotabao were raided while preparing for Subuh (early morning Prayer), and the one arrested in Linamon, Lanao del Norte, was just walking around when apprehended.”
“We vehemently condemn these arrests against the MILF members. Clearly, there are violations against human rights, the ceasefire accord between the government and MILF, and adverse effects on the on the confidence of the MILF forces on the government sincerity and commitment to the FAB,” the compliant stated.
“We are appealing to the government to work out for their release as it is so difficult to explain on the ground why arrest MILF who are innocent and cannot release them as part of the political goodwill of the FAB,” the MILF CCCH added.
Raid and arrest against MILF members are acts constituting violations to the ceasefire accord, as stipulated in the GRP–MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities section, article 1and the Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP – MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 pursuant to its paragraph 3.1.1.”
Comrades of the arrested MILF appealed to the Government Peace Panel Chairwoman Prof. Miriam Colonel-Ferrer to help for the release of the arrested and detained MILF.
“Prof Ferrer, being the first-ever woman chief negotiator and human rights vanguard, can significantly help in order that our confidence that had been affected by the slow progress on the peace talks would remain positive,” an Ustaz colleague of the arrested persons in Polomolok.
“We were expecting that after the signing of the FAB to highlight confidence building measures is freeing MILF political detainees and not spree of arrests against MILF leaders and membership,” he said.