Sunday, February 28, 2016

International community vital to sustaining Bangsamoro peace process

The support of the international community will provide the necessary fuel in preserving and sustaining the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process as the legislative track involving the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been put on hold with the bill’s non-passage during the 16th Congress, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Rafael Seguis said.

“The non-passage of the BBL does not mean the end of the unwavering efforts to achieve long lasting peace. It is not the end of the peace process,” Seguis said in a DFA briefing attended by the department's regional offices. “As diplomats, it is our duty to continue to engage and to talk to the international community in general and in particular, our international partners and stakeholders in the peace process. This is how we can substantively contribute to the peace process here in the Philippines.”

Several international actors have been involved in the negotiation and implementation phases of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Aside from the presence of Malaysia as a third-party facilitator, international actors can also be found in the other mechanisms established through the agreement such as the International Contact Group (ICG); the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT); the International Monitoring Team (IMT); the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB); and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

Seguis explained that having an international facilitator has helped a lot in clarifying some of the differences between the negotiating panels and is instrumental in coming up with the comprehensive agreement. “If we exclude Malaysia, it will be more of a problem. We needed somebody to listen [if we encounter any issues during the discussions].”

Similarly, DFA Office of American Affairs Executive Director Louie Alvarez stressed that having supportive foreign countries would help garner public attention in the on-going peace process. “It is very apparent that it is important to have international partners that publicly support the peace process. It creates a public image that the both parties are in good faith.”

TPMT Chair Alistair MacDonald highlighted the importance to the Bangsamoro peace process of the international community “in this time of uncertainty.” He said that “[t]here were of course a number of positive and important developments which can too easily be overlooked” such as “in discussions [that] underlined [how] peace in the Philippines could be an example to the world of how to achieve peace, at a time when extremism has become a global threat.”

GPH chief negotiator chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer also said that various countries have been studying the current Bangsamoro peace architecture to learn from its strengths. “The whole architecture is now a model to other countries around the world that are still trying to find a way out [of their internal armed conflicts].”

“Our ceasefire mechanisms have been significantly studied. Civil societies, non-profit organizations and armed groups are looking at our peace process," she said, citing states and non-state groups in countries like Myanmar, Colombia, Thailand and Turkey.

“We are now in the books of experience of peace negotiations. It is becoming one of the learning tools for other conflicts,” Ferrer stressed.

Ferrer addressed concerns that the participation of foreign dignitaries on the negotiations with the MILF was against international law. “Promoting international peace and security is at the heart of the United Nations (UN) Charter. The rise of extremist Islamist movements is a matter of international concern.”

"Peace with the MILF [and the] MNLF will isolate the extremists and address the conditions that breed discontent. Therefore, this is a significant matter for international cooperation,” she added.

The chief negotiator, who has been lauded around the globe for her work on the peace process and for being the first woman lead negotiator to sign a major peace agreement, explained further that the UN recognizes the people’s right to self-determination. “The UN also upholds the right of self-determination. In this instance, the reference is to internal self-determination or regional autonomy and this is what the foreign governments support. ( OPAPP)

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