US, 2 other nations hail framework agreement-A A +A
Monday, October 8, 2012
THE governments of United States, Switzerland and Australia welcomed the drafting of the framework agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"The United States welcomes the announcement of the framework agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
"This agreement is a testament to the commitment of all sides for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the southern Philippines," she added.
Clinton said the next step after the signing of the framework agreement next week would be to ensure that it will be fully implemented.
"We encourage all parties to work together to build peace, prosperity and greater opportunities for all the people of the Philippines," she said.
On Sunday, President Benigno Aquino III announced that the government already drafted a framework agreement that will create a Bangsamoro region, a new entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the announcement made by Aquino raises hope that the decades-old conflict in the region will soon draw to a close.
"This agreement is testament to the commitment of both the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to the concept of a peaceful settlement," the foreign minister said, as he described Aquino as "a strong advocate for peace."
Australia has been contributing to peace and security in Mindanao through support for basic education, governance reforms and strengthening community resilience by working with local government, security forces, citizens and civil society groups in conflict resolution.
The programs in conflict-affected areas are aimed to improve the quality of, and access, to basic education in Islamic and non-Islamic pre-schools.
The Swiss government also welcomed the framework agreement, recognizing the role played by the Malaysian government as a facilitator.
It also lauded the International Contact Group and the International Monitoring Team, which supported the efforts of the Philippine government and the MILF to resolve the conflicts in the region.
"Switzerland is hopeful that the two parties will adhere to the provision of the framework agreement in view of the establishment of the Bangsamoro in the region of Mindanao," the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement released Monday.
"Switzerland further hopes that the conclusion of this agreement will contribute towards the resolution of other internal conflicts and positively influence the stability in the country," it added.
The MILF has been pursuing a separatist insurgency in the southern Philippines since 1984, but Aquino said that with the creation of the new Bangsamoro region after the signing of the framework agreement, the MILF would no longer want a separate state.
Conflict in the southern Philippines, also involving other groups, has killed between 75,000 and 120,000 people, reports said.
Peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF began in 1996, but were halted during the botched signing of the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
Aquino said the government will give the public enough time to study the agreement and file protests, if there are any.
He said this will prevent the repeat of the botched MOA-AD that was declared invalid by the Supreme Court in 2008 for violating provisions of the Philippine Constitution.
The MOA-AD would have allowed the Moro people to gain full control of the yet-to-be-created Bangsamoro region.
Under the new framework agreement, the National Government would still have full control of security and defense in the region.
Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, whose agency is in charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), described the latest development in the peace process as a "moment of historic opportunity."
He said a "tremendous job" awaits his department, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the police force as they seek to achieve a lasting peace in the country's troubled region.
Nevertheless, despite the heavy task, Roxas said he is sure that the PNP will perform its mandate in protecting the people of Bangsamoro against leaders who would abuse their political power.
For her part, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima assured the public that the National Government will still have control on matters such as foreign policy and internal defense even if the MILF asked more autonomy.
"It's great to know that the MILF didn't pursue the creation of a sub-state. It has been questioned in the past. Why create a sub-state? This is just one state, one country," she told reporters.
De Lima, who was present during Aquino's televised announcement Sunday in Malacañang, said the draft framework peace agreement will still undergo a one-week consultation to avoid bloody repercussions similar to the aborted MOA-AD.
The document, which was supposed to be signed in Malaysia in 2008, guarantees expanded autonomy and control in the proposed Bangsamoro homeland.
"It's brought out there in the open for the people to know exactly what the provisions are so that the people, all stakeholders, can express their views also for consideration," she said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meantime, is hoping the development will offer a good start to those seeking lasting peace in Mindanao.
"Economic prosperity has shown to be a natural neutralizer of social unrest. The creation of jobs and enterprises, and the realization of the potential of our fellow Filipinos in the south, will usher in a renaissance in the Philippines unlike any other we have experienced before," he said.
Basilan Representative Jim Hataman-Salliman, vice chairperson of the committees on Mindanao affairs, on Muslim affairs, and on peace, reconciliation and unity in the House of Representatives, said the latest development is "a qualitative leap to peace process."
"This is, I think, a very significant development," said Hataman-Salliman, brother of Armm officer-in-charge Governor Mujiv Hataman.
Maguidanao Representative Simeon Datumanong, a veteran Muslim leader, cited the "persistent efforts of the Philippine government and the MILF to attain peace."
"The people of Mindanao, especially those affected by the conflict have been waiting for this happy development," he said.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also hailed the draft framework peace agreement reached in Malaysia.
Asked whether Congress needs to amend the 1987 Charter to replace Armm with the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity, Belmonte said: "I suppose so. They're very simple changes which are of far reaching consequences for the good of the country."
Belmonte, however, cannot commit if the present 15th Congress can still accommodate proposals seeking to amend the Constitution.
"We have to admit time is not as unlimited or is now limited to a greater degree than that of the first and second sessions," he said.
Congress resumed session October 8 after a two-week break. It will go on recess on October 20 to November 4.
On the other hand, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes expressed belief that the new Bangsamoro entity will help promote peace in Mindanao and its effect will be felt immediately in next year's polls, wherein the Armm elections has been synchronized.
Brillantes said the immediate impact of the new deal between the government and the MILF could be especially felt in the usual violence attending the elections in the south.
"It should lessen the tension there for the Armm elections, now that they know they are expanding," said Brillantes.
He, meanwhile, said that the Comelec will only be concerned with the Bangsamoro deal once a law is passed requiring a plebiscite. (CVB/Kathrina Alvarez/Emmanuel Louis Bacani/HDT/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)