The 16th Congress’ failure to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will not be a deterrent to the continued implementation of the signed 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace accord between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
While the passage of the BBL remains to be the keystone in the Bangsamoro peace process, GPH chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the peace panels will continue the programs that do not require legislative action.
On the socio-economic projects for the transformation of MILF camps into productive communities, Ferrer said that "solar power systems will be installed to provide communities their needs for electricity, hanging bridges will be constructed to connect villages, and water supply systems will be built in some other areas."
The GPH chief negotiator added that in the next five months before President Benigno S. Aquino III steps down in June, the panels would attempt to “identify more projects” for “the remote parts of Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, and the island provinces.”
During the two-day meeting of the peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early last week, the report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was presented. The TJRC is the body tasked to work out a program to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations. Steps are underway to operationalize the TJRC's recommendations.
Commenting directly on the Congress’ collective inaction on the BBL, Ferrer said that “the good news is that we are still on the peace track”.
“No one is backing out in the peace process, not the MILF, not the government, not the international community that supported our efforts, and certainly all the mechanisms are fully functional,” she added.
Ferrer, who is now in Berlin to attend a conference on peace negotiations, disclosed that she met early this week with two MILF ground commanders in Maguindanao and heard directly from them that they will abide by the orders of their leadership to observe and protect the ceasefire. In turn, she assured them of the President's injunction to preserve the ceasefire with the MILF, even as military and law enforcement operations continue against lawless elements in the region.
“The seeds have been planted over the last decades. We have seen some of the fruits. This is a process and processes take time. In a matter of time the road map would be accomplished.”
The government peace panel chair also added that the next administration would be foolhardy if it decided to go to war rather than preserve the gains of the 17 years of peace negotiations between the GPH and the MILF. “No government would like a full scale war on its hands. It is an advantage to the next administration to keep this peace on the ground stable so that [they] could focus all [their] attention to other security threats that this country is facing – both external and internal.”
“We don't want the next President to open its administration with a war in Mindanao. We are now trying to address the issues that are causing the armed conflicts. What is important, no matter who will be the next government panel is, is that they will continue the pursuance of the peace negotiations,” she said.
Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles maintained that the momentum of the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process should be sustained by the next administration. She likewise emphasized that the challenges encountered in this administration in pushing for the passage of the BBL brought positive effects.
“The peace process is not a magic wand that there would be peace in an overnight timeline. It is a process. What we went through last year only showed the profound understanding of the sectors on the peace negotiations,” Deles said.
“There are unprecedented events that have not happened before and various statements of support. The worst crisis also brought out unexpected support from people of all sectors who stood up for the peace process. We got the peace process on the national agenda. We will continue to pursue peace.” (OPAPP)