GPH-MILF agree on wealth sharing

(3rd UPDATE) After a near collapse in the talks, both sides sign the annex on wealth-sharing and move a step closer to a final peace pact

BREAKTHROUGH. Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal sign the wealth-sharing annex and joint statement. Photo from OPAPP

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – After a 12-hour session, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) arrived at a compromise on wealth-sharing at about 10:30 pm on Saturday, July 13.

Surmounting one of the most contentious issues in the peace negotiations, they signed the annex on wealth-sharing a little over an hour later at past midnight of Sunday, July 14.

This was the first time in this round of talks that negotiations extended until the evening. In fact, both sides had planned on holding talks for only half a day after Wednesday, in observance of Ramadan.

“The Parties believe that the Annex, which forms part of the FAB, will provide sufficient guidance for the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s provisions on wealth sharing and revenue generation for the Bangsamoro as envisioned by the FAB,” the government and the MILF panels said in a joint statement.

“Progress was also made by the Technical Working Group on Normalization and the special team on power sharing,” the statement also said. “The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) which will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreements held its first organizational meeting, led by its Chair Mr. Alistair MacDonald.”

The signing of the annex came after the talks were extended to two days and after a 3-month delay in the peace talks. The annex details how wealth will be divided between the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity and the central government. 

“This is a collective success. I am looking at the next challenges,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told Rappler in a text message.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, for her part, only had one word to describe how she felt about the development: relief. 

Talks almost collapsed when the panels left the negotiating table on Thursday – the supposed last day of the talks – without any agreement. 

But the government managed to persuade the MILF to return Friday and Saturday to iron out remaining issues. 

READ: MILF returns to negotiating table

READ: Still no deal: Peace talks extended anew

With a signed document, both sides move one step closer to signing a final peace pact. 

Along with issues on power-sharing, wealth-sharing comprises the heart of the comprehensive pact. Its resolution allows the panels to move further with discussions on the annexes on power-sharing as well as normalization, which involves the decommissioning of MILF forces and other armed groups, and the policing of the Bangsamoro.

These annexes are the only ones pending. Agreement on them is required to complement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. They are requisites to the signing of a comprehensive peace pact.

FINAL DRAFT. Government, MILF team members prepare the final version of the annex on wealth-sharing as UK representative to the ICG, Thomas Phipps looks on. Photo from OPAPP

Natural resources

In the last few hours of the negotiations, Ferrer said discussions were reduced to “a few sets of provisions” concerning the language, formulation and implementation of the components of the wealth-sharing annex.

What were those provisions?

Iqbal revealed that the most contentious issue that faced the panels did not necessarily concern percentages on wealth-sharing but a “core principle” over natural resources, or the Regalian doctrine in the Constitution. 

The Regalian doctrine is embodied in Section 2 Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. It states that all lands and natural resources in the public domain belong to the State.  

During a break earlier in the evening to allow Muslim members in the panel to break their fast, Iqbal said: “We have already settled many issues. The position of the MILF is, we will stick with the February 27 annex. In this round, we have already agreed on many compromises but now the compromise they want is not with a core issue, but a core principle. That’s what we can’t agree to.”

Iqbal said the government wanted to include the Regalian doctrine concept in the annex. But the MILF was not keen on doing so because they believe this is a violation of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001. 

“This is the reason why we lost our lands in Mindanao, because our lands are controlled by the state,” Iqbal said in a mix of English and Filipino. “Our sultanates, our leaders, they all lost their lands because what we were following then was the traditional system of owning lands,” he added. 

In the end, both sides appeared to have reached a compromise. As of posting, a copy of the signed document has yet to be disseminated. 

In February, both sides “initialed” a draft of the wealth-sharing annex. But the government wanted to introduce changes in the draft after conducting due dilligence, prompting the MILF to declare a deadlock in the negotiations.

FINALLY. Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles confers with MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal after the two panels come to an agreement on wealth sharing. Photo from OPAPP

Other mechanisms

Aside from an agreement on wealth-sharing, this round of talks also managed to complete other steps needed to move the peace process forward. 

For the first time, members of the Third Party Monitoring Team joined the panels in session. The team is the body tasked to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the final peace pact. 

The technical working groups for the annex on normalization also continued their discussions for this round. Sources said they talked about how to phase the decommissioning of MILF and other armed groups in Mindanao. They also discussed the composition of the Independent Commission on Policing, which is tasked to produce recommendations for the creation of a police force for the Bangsamoro.

(Editor’s note: We earlier said the Independent Commission on Policing is tasked to monitor the normalization process. We apologize.) 

Days before the talks, at least 100 civil society leaders urged both sides to settle the remaining issues as soon as possible. 

Meanwhile, breakaway troops also launched a series of attacks in central Mindanao days before the resumption of the talks, showing their opposition to the peace process. They attacked another army truck on Saturday

The talks aim to end nearly 4 decades of Muslim rebellion in Mindanao. – Rappler.com

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