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Philippines: Bangsamoro transition panel to hold first meet Wednesday

Civil society groups had feared that the negotiations would fall into hiatus

Gulf News

Manila: A panel formed by President Benigno Aquino III for the purpose of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law is set to convene on Wednesday, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf) separately said.

“The Government Panel (GPH) will work closely with the Transition Commission (TransCom) in continuing to reach out to the public and coming up with a draft law that will embody the just aspirations of the peace negotiations,” government peace panel chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

Made up of 15 members — seven of which were nominated by the GPH while eight were recommended by Milf — the TransCom will begin its work on drafting the basic law following its first meeting.

The impending meeting between TransCom members comes in the aftermath of the announced postponement of the 37th round of formal exploratory talks between the GPH and Milf panels in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Ferrer said the parties agreed to reschedule their meeting in the second week of April “in view of President Benigno Aquino’s request to reschedule the talks to have more time for review and consultations on the draft annexes [of the final peace agreement].”

Earlier, civil society groups feared that the negotiations would fall into hiatus. But Ferrer clarified that there was no reason to be apprehensive as both parties will resume formal talks.

“The two-week postponement does not in any way derail a process that has already gained momentum and wide support, locally and internationally,” Ferrer said.

“The Government Panel affirms its belief in peaceful negotiations and the wisdom of the multidimensional approach that it has taken in partnership with the Milf toward building sustainable peace,” Coronel-Ferrer added.

She said that “the Government’s request to be given more time to review the draft documents and the remaining issues only indicate the kind of due diligence it has always exercised in the process.”

“The fruits of the negotiations must be able to respond to the interests and welfare of all stakeholders. It must bring about a new Bangsamoro political entity that will enable meaningful, inclusive and responsive governance in the region.”

The Milf and the GPH agreed to sign the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012. The FAB will serve as a roadmap for the eventual signing of a final peace agreement between the Milf and GPH. In December 17, 2012, Aquino signed the order forming the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and several weeks ago, members of the panel representing the Bangsamoro and the government were nominated.

The transition panel is led by Milf negotiating panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The main task of the TransCom is to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law in preparation for the “new autonomous political entity” called “Bangsamoro.”

“The new entity will replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which will have its last elections on May 13. But the supposed three-year term of office of ARMM officials will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall have been passed by Congress and ratified by the people,” Ferrer said.