Photo: Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF Peace Panel addresses peace advocates of Manila-based CSOs on the recent Wealth Generation and Revenue Sharing Annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsa Moro, i.e. for peace and the cessation of armed hostilities.

Amid the hubris of the several negotiations that are going on relating to the developments on the Peace Negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, little is being said by anyone on the disappointments felt generally over the non-progress with the traditional left.

The negotiations have begun again, restarting amid a pause since the signing of the Framework Agreement last October, 2012. The just-finished round of negotiations dealt with “Wealth Generation and Revenue Sharing” Annex of the Framework Agreement. The MILF agreement is showing most promise.

World without Wars and without Violence – Philippines (WwW&wV), recently participated in two Open Forums relating to the developments on these peace negotiations. “The first Forum, in the morning, was devoted to the government presentation of the issues of the talks,” says WwW&wV Philippines co-ordinator Osbi Santillan, “while the second Forum was the presentation of the MILF – with the Chairman and other members of their Negotiating Panel.

“Essentially, what happened, from both sides was a breakthrough and a milestone in the negotiations as “Wealth Generation and Revenue Sharing” is a highly contentious issue even among corporate partners, what more for a central government and a rebel group representing a minority group (the Bangsa Moro)!”

Mr Santillan said the talks were scheduled for 4 days but at the end of these 4 days, both sides remained intractable regarding their respective positions. In spite of this, however, both panels realized and understood the gravity of the situation if no agreement or deal would be reached (the timetable for completing the Framework Agreement had already been delayed).

“After a direct appeal from the Government Panel to the MILF Negotiating Panel to extend the talks another 2 days, both parties went back to the negotiating table. Thereupon, after 6 days, both parties came away with an agreement on the “Wealth Generation and Revenue Sharing” Annex of the Framework Agreement.”

Two more Annexes still need to be negotiated to complete the Framework Agreement and work of the Bangsa Moro Transitional Council to fashion a Bangsa Moro Constitution to begin being worked out.

The Open Forums were organized by members of the Mindanao Solidarity Network, an aggrupation of Manila-based Peace NGOs and members of Civil Society working for peace in Mindanao. Lead organizers included Balai Rehabilitation Center, the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Pinay Kilos, Miriam College Center for Peace Education, etc. All of the above-named were supporters, partners and participants of the 2009-2010 World March for Peace and Nonviolence – organised with Humanist Movement members to the fore.

“While negotiations have achieved a major breakthrough, there is still a gargantuan task to finally achieve peace in the conflict-stricken island of Mindanao; after all, a good 90 % plus of the population are mistrustful of one of the two sides and perceive that one is “winning” while the other is “losing”. The Peace Negotiations have to be ratified by a very hostile Congress and then will be subjected to a nationwide referendum in 2016. We have our work cut out for us…” added Mr Santillan.

Johaira Wahab, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, told the media that at this point, the work with respect to the signed annexes (i.e. wealth sharing and transitional arrangements) moves on from the negotiating panels to the Transition Commission, and eventually Congress. Adding: At this point too, the importance of maintaining transparency and inclusivity in all phases of the process cannot be emphasized enough. The people must be kept informed of the status and issues discussed in the negotiations or in the drafting of the Basic Law, and a continuous multi-sectoral engagement must be reinforced to ensure a broad-based constituency for the process. After all, peace negotiations are not just about rules, nor laws, nor words; it is rather, and most importantly, about people.

The peace panels discussions ended 21 August 2013, which wrapped up the 19th round of talks under the three-year Aquino administration, with both panels agreeing to meet for ten days from September 9, 2013, to finish the annexes on power-sharing and normalization.

Note: Johaira Wahab was formerly head of the legal team of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF. This penultimate paragraph reflects her personal understanding of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.

This news item compiled from an article on Minda News, see: