No GPH-MILF deal yet on power-sharing
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite holding a session for more than 18 hours, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) failed to agree on how power will be shared between the proposed Bangsamoro political entity and the national government in the 41st round of talks.
The last day of the negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia started at about 10 am Saturday, October 12, and extended until about 5 am Sunday, October 13, in a bid to complete the power-sharing annex. This is one of the two annexes required before the final peace pact can be signed.
At past 1 am Sunday, an MILF source said the panels reached a "technical impasse," with both sides failing to reach a consensus on details regarding the Bangsamoro's ministerial form of government. A technical impasse has to do with how the language of the agreements is formulated.
"But very good progress has been achieved in the power-sharing annex including on the possible structure of the new Bangsamoro political entity and the intergovernmental mechanism that can be instituted to ensure coordination and cooperation between the Central and Bangsamoro governments in the exercise of various powers," Ferrer said.
Power-sharing represents the "heart" of the negotiations, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier said.
The annex contains the list of powers reserved for the central government, powers exclusive to the envisioned Bangsamoro government, and concurrent or shared powers between the two.
Under the Framework Agreement signed on Oct 15, 2012, the Bangsamoro government would take a ministerial form, where members of the legislature elected by the people would elect a chief minister among themselves.
In a statement released Sunday, Ferrer said the MILF wants to include certain features of the ministerial government in the annex.
But both sides agree that how the Bangsamoro government would operate won't be defined in full in the power-sharing annex. It would be fleshed out in the Bangsamoro Basic Law instead.
"There is understanding now on the level of detail that would go into the Annex on Power Sharing but some disagreements still on specific features," Ferrer said.
Among the unresolved issues are the extent of territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity over waters and on the protection of fishing rights of subsistence fisherfolk in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf.
Failure to sign an annex in this round constricts the timeline of the Bangsamoro peace process even further – a situation recognized by the panels themselves.
In their joint statement, both sides said they hope to complete the annexes after the Eid al-Adha break.
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier said the delay is impeding the working timeline of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body tasked to draft the Basic Law. Iqbal also heads the commission.
For the government, there's no turning back for the peace negotiations.
Citing a June 2013 Social Weather Stations survey showing that 70% of Filipinos still believe a peace agreement is possible, Ferrer said in her opening statement: "It is evident from these survey results that the key question to many people following up this negotiation is not so much IF we will have a peace agreement, but WHEN."
The government wants the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao towards the Bangsamoro political entity before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office in 2016.
Both the government and the MILF recognize the urgency of beating this deadline, given the uncertainty of a change in political climate when a new set of officials take over.
Lawmakers earlier said it would be ideal for the Transition Commission to finish drafting the law by the first quarter of 2014 to give Congress enough time to pass the measure.
Once the Basic Law is ratified, the ARMM will be deemed abolished, paving the way for the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority to take over until the election of Bangsamoro officials in 2016.
This round of talks comes weeks after forces associated with a faction of the MILF’s rival group, the Moro National Liberation Front, attacked Zamboanga City, resulting in a 3-week standoff. The impasse ended with 139 civilian casualties and damaged homes and properties. (READ: Zambo crisis: The fog of war)
Despite the setbacks, both sides still hope the final peace pact will end the 40-year armed struggle in Mindanao. - Rappler.com
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