DAVAO CITY—The two major Moro guerrilla organizations officially activated their coordination forum at the instance of the powerful pan-Arabic Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which helped bring the two to the negotiation table with a separate government team of negotiators, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) said.

The Opapp said that OIC special envoy, Ambassador Sayyid Kassim El-Masri, said that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formally activated and operationalized the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) last month, in what appeared to be a low-key but high-level meeting to avert further divergent moves by the two organizations which have separate peace tracts.

El-Masri relayed the information to Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles when she met with other OIC senior officials in Manila last Thursday. He provided copies of the documents, including the minutes of last month’s meeting and the terms of reference of the BCF.

The OIC senior officials discussed with Deles and other Opapp representatives the progress of the peace negotiations with the MILF.

He said the terms of reference of the forum was signed by Mohagher Iqbal as representative of the MILF and Randolph Parcasio as representative of the MNLF. El-Masri signed the terms of reference as the OIC envoy.

Citing from the documents, the Opapp said the terms of reference allowed the coordination body to “provide the venue to discuss issues and concerns confronting the Bangsamoro people, including finding common grounds between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement-1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro [CAB] in order to harmonize the two peace tracks and preserve the gains contained in these agreements.”

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement-1996 Final Peace Agreement refers to the peace negotiations with the MNLF that ended in the signing here of the peace agreement in September 1996, while the CAB refers to the agreement in principle between government and the MILF to conclude their negotiation in a comprehensive political agreement as soon as the new political unit, called the Bangsamoro, would have been established.

Incidentally, the Bangsamoro would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the political entity that was also given to the MNLF as a major political concession to persuade the latter to agree to the comprehensive peace settlement in 1996.

In the terms of reference, the OIC and the Opapp said that the two versions of the peace agreements were “mutually recognize[d] and respect[ed]” by the MNLF and the MILF.

The coordination forum was also given the leeway to “coordinate the efforts of the MILF and MNLF in order to consolidate their efforts toward achieving the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for just political solution and lasting peace and inclusive development,” as well as to “conduct consultations with other sectors of the Bangsamoro society, including the Ulama.”

The coordination forum would be composed of 20 members, “with equal representation of 10 members each coming from the MILF and MNLF.”

“It is expected to meet every three months,” the terms of reference said, with the first meeting scheduled on October 26 and 27.

Each quarterly meeting would be presided over by the OIC secretary-general or his representative or the chairman of the OIC Peace Committee on Southern Philippines.
The terms of reference allowed the creation of a joint secretariat for the BCF for administrative and coordinative tasks. The secretariat will be composed of three members each from the MILF and MNLF. Technical and legal working groups may also be organized as necessary.

The Opapp said that the OIC told them that the meeting on the activation of the BCF was convened on October 13 by El-Masri “upon the instruction of OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani.”

Aside from Iqbal, the MILF delegation included Abhoud Syed Lingga, Abdullah Camlian and Jun Mantawil. The MNLF delegation include Parcasio, Muslimin Sema, Mujahab Hashim, Alvarez Isnaji and Utto Salem Cutan. Mostafa. The Saudi Arabian Charge d’Affaires and vice chairman of PCSP, Hassan Alabdein, attended the meeting. The OIC said that the MNLF and the MILF signed the meeting report and terms of reference on the following day.

“The creation of the BCF has initially been agreed upon in a meeting between MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on May 18, 2010 through the invitation of the OIC secretary-general. Succeeding meetings of the Parties on the establishment of the BCF were held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on December 6 and 7, 2011 and June 12 this year,” the Opapp said, citing information from the OIC.

The Opapp said that Deles “expressed her thanks to the OIC and welcomed the activation of the coordination mechanism between the two Moro fronts.”

“This is a positive and very welcome development, especially at this juncture of the peace process when the Bangsamoro basic law [BBL] is being deliberated in Congress. We are talking of the same territory and the same people, as such it is good to know that the MILF and MNLF have agreed to consolidate their efforts for peace and development so that all of these can be integrated in the BBL.”

“We look forward to the participation of both the MILF and MNLF in the establishment of the Bangsamoro,” Deles said. “We are appreciative of the efforts of the OIC in making this possible.”

Last week’s meeting of the Opapp with the OIC was attended by Egyptian Ambassador Mahmoud Mostafa, who currently heads the OIC Peace Committee on Southern Philippines, Hassan Alabdein, OIC Department of Minorities and Communities, Opapp Undersecretary Jose Lorena, National Security Council Deputy Director General Zenonida Brosas and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Julius Torres.