Framework agreement a light at the end of a dark tunnel

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CAGAYAN DE ORO -- A network of indigenous peoples, Bangsamoro and Christian communities and leaders in Mindanao hailed the government’s “framework agreement” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), saying it seemed to be a “light at the end of the dark tunnel.”

The Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), whose members are the ones directly affected by the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao, said peace is indeed possible with the crafting of the deal that seeks to create a Bangsamoro region.

The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), which President Benigno Aquino III earlier considered as a “failed experiment.”


But Pastor Reu Montecillo, MPC co-chair, said information dissemination among Muslims, Christians and the indigenous people plays a crucial role in generating support and acceptance of the agreement.

“I urge all religious leaders to help explain and enlighten our brethrens on the contents and substance of the agreement,” Montecillo said.

The group also urged political leaders to provide avenues where people can take active part in the discussion and debate regarding the substance of the deal.

“It is also very crucial that this will be translated into major languages and dialects in order to promote better understanding of the contents,” the MPC said, citing that “the nature of the agreement is a political settlement, critical to its full implementation and sustainability.”

On Sunday, President Aquino announced that the government and MILF agreed to create Bangsamoro to replace Armm, which was established 23 years ago but has failed to solve problems such as war, poverty, election fraud, political patronage and warlordism.

The United Nations (UN) welcomed Tuesday the crafting of the agreement.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commended Aquino for his vision and courage, as well as the commitment of the MILF leadership, in reaching the landmark agreement.

"The United Nations stands ready to provide assistance to the parties, as needed, in implementing the Framework Peace Agreement," he said.

Ban also expressed gratefulness to all national and international actors, in particular the Malaysian government, for their contributions to the success of the peace negotiations.

Malaysia acts as the third party facilitator in the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF.

The secretary-general also expressed his heartfelt wishes for peace and prosperity to the government and the people of the Philippines, in particular the people of Bangsamoro.

However, Zamboanga Mayor Celso Lobregat said various provisions of the framework agreement need to be clarified, and even amended if needed.

Lobregat, who went over the framework agreement he downloaded online, said he initially observed the inclusion of some contentious issues, specifically on the provision about “territory.”

He noted that the agreement provides that contiguous areas may and can be included through a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area.

The particular provision that Lobregat was referring to says: “The core territory of the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: (a) the present geographical area of the Armm; (b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the Armm during the 2001 plebiscite; (c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and (d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro as mentioned in the next paragraph.”

He also expressed concern over other provisions on the inclusion of other areas such as some barangays, which he said would mean carving out areas from cities and provinces. He said he will bring up the matter to the government peace panel.

The Philippine government and the MILF are set to sign the framework agreement on October 15. (Abigail Chee Kee Malalis of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Mindanews/SDR/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 10, 2012.

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