Bangsamoro talks: Last 2 annexes signed 'within the year'
MANILA, Philippines – Two annexes down, two more to go.
After the successful signing of the wealth-sharing annex for the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity, what's next in the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)?
Two more annexes – on power sharing and on normalization – await discussion and approval to complete the comprehensive agreement. The government panel is almost certain these will be signed "within the year."
While the relief and contentment of the government peace panel upon the signing of the wealth-sharing annex was palpable on Monday, July 15, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita "Ging" Deles reminded reporters there is much left to be done.
"In the coming months, expect already there will be rough patches," she said in a press briefing in Malacañang. "But remember this: we are committed to see this process through."
Deles joined the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel in Malaysia for the recent negotiations with the MILF. The agreement on wealth sharing didn't come easy. Talks were originally scheduled for 4 days, and later extended to two more days after the two parties initially failed to reach a compromise.
GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer described the negotiations as "a close call," but after 6 days of talks, including a 12-hour meeting, both parties finally came to an agreement and signed the contentious annex shortly before midnight Saturday.
Ferrer said the other annexes have been discussed simultaneously in talks, and said both sides "already have a good number of consensus points on the power-sharing annex as well as the normalization annex."
When asked which annex would likely be tackled ahead, she said "it will be a contest between the two annexes which one gets to the finish line first."
Sources have told Rappler, however, that both sides are expected to complete the power-sharing annex next since work on the annex has started June last year, at the same time as the wealth-sharing annex. It is considered to be on the advanced level as discussions are already tackled by the panel.
The normalization annex is still under the level of the technical working groups. In the recent talks, both sides tackled the phasing and timing of the decommissioning of MILF combatants and other armed groups, as well as the composition of the Independent Commission on Policing – the body tasked to submit recommendations on the police force for the Bangsamoro.
Ferrer admitted it would be "crunch time" for MILF once the normalization annex is discussed.
"In the normalization annex, this is where crunch time really comes for the MILF because this is the part where we will be working on the decommissioning of combatants and weapons, and as you can imagine, that is something that is not easy to give up for a group that has held on to its arms in order to pursue its cause," she said.
She added, "It is something that they cannot simply do when, in fact, there are so many other armed groups in the area," citing criminal groups and private armed groups in addition to the MILF.
Despite the challenges ahead, Ferrer expressed optimism over upcoming discussions and implementation, specifically with regards to the normalization annex. She praised the efforts of the MILF in standing by the agreements they have signed so far.
"There are still contentions on the phasing and the process as to how it will be done, but the MILF has already committed to this. It’s going to be part of the comprehensive agreement that alongside the political and economic deliverables will be these deliverables on their part," she said.
Ferrer would not give a specific time frame for the completion of the other two annexes but said "it is fair to assume the two annexes will be signed within the year." She said both parties are looking to finish the negotiations as soon as possible in order to move on to the implementation of the agreement.
The goal, she said, is to finish everything within the Aquino administration, by 2016.
"The timetable is always a product of mutual deliberations. So that timetable really depends on both parties coming to terms with these difficult issues and as soon as we are able to do that, under pressure, just like last week, then certainly it will happen probably sooner than the pessimists expect," she said.
The parties are scheduled to meet again after the Ramadan. – Rappler.com