Monday, April 22, 2019

GPH, MILF resume talks in KL

ILIGAN CITY -- When political scientist Miriam Coronel-Ferrer enters the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, she will be bringing two pens as her lucky charm that she hopes will work again this time.

Barring last-minute changes, the peace panels of government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to start a planned six-day exploratory meeting on August 20 to settle remaining issues on power-sharing.

Decommissioning armed wing

They are also expected to consider a joint report of their respective technical working groups on how to go about the tricky process of normalization that includes, among others, the graduated decommissioning of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed wing.

Coronel-Ferrer brought the same set of pens last month for the negotiations on the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing. After the two one-day extension, the meeting produced a breakthrough consensus that brought the parties closer to a comprehensive agreement.

The comprehensive pact will comprise the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that was signed October 15 last year plus the four annexes on transitional modalities, wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization.

The pens were first used to sign the wealth-sharing annex past midnight of July 13. She is hoping the pens can be used for the second time during the current exploratory meeting.

The pens, she revealed, were given by friends within the peace building community, among them Sr. Maria Arnold Noel and Lisa Ugay, who visited her prior to setting off for Kuala Lumpur for last month’s talks.

Consensus on power-sharing

For this round, it is widely expected that the main work for the panels will be building consensus on power-sharing, defining which items should fall as powers exclusive to the central government, devolved to the future Bangsamoro, or shared between the two governance entities.

The MILF said that although it will not be as tough as the negotiations on wealth-sharing, talks for power-sharing is still contentious.

Coronel-Ferrer has said that there are only two power-sharing items that has escaped the parties’ consensus -- transportation and communication and the notion of regional waters.

Last month, The Asia Foundation (TAF) country director Steven Rood said the document containing the power-sharing annex is as good as done, “its contents awaiting a political decision.”

Rood used to be a member of the International Contact Group of the Mindanao peace process. He now represents TAF in the Third Party Monitoring Team which will oversee implementation of the commitments of both parties as embodied in the signed agreements.

Parallel meeting

Earlier, MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said he is looking into the idea of convening the central committee to a meeting parallel to that of the talks in Kuala Lumpur.

He said that on the part of the MILF, this was the ‘magic formula’ that led to the breakthrough on wealth-sharing consensus last month.

Murad explained that while the peace panels were deliberating in Kuala Lumpur, the central committee members gathered in Camp Darapanan -- its administrative base in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao -- to weigh in on the positions and counter-proposal of government on the issue.

The real-time interaction between the MILF central committee and its negotiating panel made it possible for the negotiators to offer definite positions that reflected the official stand of their principals.

The same was true with government. Coronel-Ferrer has admitted that the presence of presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles in Kuala Lumpur at that time provided a real-time link between the panel and President Aquino as well as Cabinet officials.

Civil society contingent

For the current round, civil society organizations hope to send a contingent to Kuala Lumpur to observe the peace negotiations.

This is to impress upon the parties that we continue to urge them to be conscious of the ticking away of time, explained lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus.

The civil society contingent is expected to consist, at least, representatives from Lumad, Moro and settler communities of Mindanao.

Arnado said they would welcome very much the chance to sit inside the negotiating room.

Grassroots Maranao leaders expect the parties, especially the MILF, to bring the matter of Bangsamoro jurisdiction over management of Lake Lanao in the power-sharing negotiations, youth leader Abul Alibasa told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone.

Also, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) asked the MILF to work to be enshrined in the power-sharing deal the need for the future Bangsamoro to have primary powers over labor regulations and standard-setting consistent with internationally recognized practices.

APL noted that the current autonomous region is home to the worst situation of labor exploitation in the country.
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