Philippine Government and MILF agree on sharing of taxes, says lawyer

This was one of the seven points that were reached by negotiators of the Philippine government and the MILF in Malaysia last week.

Image Credit: Gulf News

Manila: The Philippine government and a rebel Muslim group agreed to share wealth earned by the autonomous area for Muslims in the southern Philippines, a government lawyer told Gulf News.

Camilo Montesa, lawyer of the government negotiators, said the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed on "wealth sharing between the local government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the national government".

This was one of the seven points that were reached by negotiators of the Philippine government and the MILF in Malaysia last week, said Montesa who was with the government negotiators in Kuala Lumpur last week.

At the same time, both the Philippine government and the MILF also agreed to have share in controlling the natural resources in areas controlled by Filipino Muslims in the south, said Montes.

This item was one of the two more important points agreed upon by the two camps in Malaysia, Montes said, adding that property rights were also included in the concept of control of natural resources in the south.

Earlier, both the Philippine government and the MILF have agreed to have a 75-25 per cent share of earnings between the national government and the ARMM.

At the same time, both the Philippine government and the MILF have agreed on governance structure in the autonomous area, said Montesa, adding that it was an important point agreed by both camps. The lawyer refused to give details, but experts said this is related to extending more autonomy in ARMM as far as governance is concerned.

Both the Philippine government and the MILF have categorically not stated if they are pursuing ARMM's expansion.

This agreement in principle will become a reality only if Congress amends an existing bill that was the basis of ARMM's existence. "It means allowing another referendum on a village level on areas chosen by the MILF and the government to be part of the ARMM," explained a legal expert who requested for anonymity.

Enhanced autonomy

ARMM is now composed of five provinces and one city.

At the same time, Annabelle Abaya, presidential adviser on the peace process said that, in essence, the Philippine government has offered "enhanced autonomy" and "more power sharing" to the MILF.

These two things, she said, could easily pave the way for the forging of a peace settlement between the Philippine government and the MILF in June this year.

All the seven points that were agreed upon will be discussed back home, in Manila and in the southern Philippines, said Montesa.

Last week, the MILF said that the Philippine government "had nothing new to offer," when it offered a draft of the proposed peace settlement with the MILF.

In reaction, Abaya said the Philippine government and the MILF exchanged drafts for a review, collation, and changes.

Luwaran, the MILF website, posted the statement by Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, the facilitator of the negotiations in Malaysia, that both the parties agreed to meet again in Kuala Lumpur on February 18 till 20 "to discuss the draft texts and identify the next steps" for the purpose of achieving a comprehensive compact and a negotiated solution in Mindanao.

Kuala Lumpur meeting

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was the first formal talks of both the parties after the Supreme Court prevented the camps in 2008 from signing a proposed land deal with regard to ARMM's expansion.

The Apex Court's ruling prompted MILF renegade commanders to attack civilian villages which killed 60 people and displaced 600,000 residents.

Since 1978, the 12,000-strong MILF has been waging a war for a separate independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
 

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