EU diplomat on GPH-MILF peace pact: More work ahead

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014


ILIGAN CITY -- After the negotiations for a political settlement of the Moro rebellion in Mindanao are done, more work awaits the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said a former top European diplomat in the country.

“There is still much hard work ahead, and there will certainly be many challenges to be faced in implementing the Framework Agreement and its Annexes,” former European Union (EU) Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald emphasized.

“But the commitment of both Parties is clear, and the path to peace is well signposted," MacDonald said in a statement.

MacDonald, who has retired from the EU diplomatic service, currently chairs the independent Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) that the peace panels organized to observe and report on the implementation of all signed agreements between the government and the MILF.

He served as EU’s top envoy in the Philippines from 2006 to 2011, presiding over increased involvement of the group in the Mindanao peace process.

On Saturday, the parties signed the Annex on Normalization to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that lays down, among others, the transition of the MILF into a non-armed entity; and an Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters that delineates a maritime territory for the future autonomous entity.

"My colleagues and I congratulate the government and MILF Panel Chairs on the successful conclusion of the Annex on Normalisation, and welcome the path which this sets toward sustainable peace in Mindanao," said MacDonald.

Apart from normalization, the other annexes earlier forged are on Transitional Arragements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, and Power Sharing.

Six consensus

Saturday’s breakthrough leaves the parties with only the task of compiling the six consensus documents into the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“This is an exciting moment in history. Now, the work on the Basic Law can proceed full blast,” said retired Mindanao State University Prof. Rudy Rodil, former vice-chair of the government peace panel.

The Basic Law, which will be enacted by Congress, serves as charter of the future Bangsamoro entity and is expected to embody the consensus of the parties as will be contained in the CAB.

The Basic Law is being drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that was created by President Aquino December 2012. Due to delays in the negotiations, the BTC has been making do with the FAB and the completed annexes when it began work August 2013.

Although the core principles have been clearly stipulated in the normalization annex, some key details have been left for fleshing out later.

In all, the whole package of normalization constitutes measures on policing inside the Bangsamoro and interim security arrangements; decommissioning of the MILF’s armed wing—the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF); redeployment of government forces within the Bangsamoro; clearing of unexploded ordnance in once battlefront areas; disbanding of private armed groups (PAGs); socio-economic support to former combatants; transitional justice; and grant of amnesty or pardon to persons who committed “offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

According to MILF vice-chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar, the relevant structures that will operationalize and oversee the various aspects of the normalization process is yet to be constituted hence will be among the next steps for the peace panels.

One is the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) that will oversee all normalization activities. Another is the Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC) that will coordinate with the command structures of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the BIAF for the interim security measures while the Bangsamoro police force is not yet established.

Further, the seven-member Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) that will be responsible for doing inventory, verification and validation of BIAF members, arms and weapons; and in coming up with methods of retrieval of and rendering these weapons beyond use.

Although the detailed schedule is yet to be released by the parties, the normalization annex provides that decommissioning of the MILF forces “shall be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the Parties.”

Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro sources said that in that schedule, a specific number of BIAF members and weapons have to be decommissioned “for every political milestone” in the peace process such as, for example, the enactment of the Basic Law.

MacDonald said that with the negotiations done, the TPMT will now be able to carry forward fully its efforts to monitor the implementation ofthe signed agreements, through towards the election of the Bangsamoro Assembly and creation of the Bangsamoro Government in 2016.

Constituted in July 2013, the TPMT has five members. Apart from MacDonald, the others are Zainuddin Malang of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center; Huseyin Oruc of the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation; Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation; and Karen Tanada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 28, 2014.

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