Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has finally signed the law providing for enhanced autonomy to the Moro region in Southern Philippines as the European Union reiterated its support to the peace process in the south.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the President signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), previously known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, after the House of Representatives ratified the unified version of the measure last Tuesday.

Plans by Duterte to sign the law in time for his State of the Nation address last Monday had been derailed by intramurals within the House of Representatives. Speaker Pantaleon Alvaraz was ousted and replaced by Pampanga Second District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delaying the signing of the measure into law.

“This is to announce that the President has just signed the BOL into law,” Roque finally said on Thursday evening.

The law is the culmination of the struggles of the Moro region, not just for its own distinct identity, but for the right to manage its own affairs in all aspects of governance with little intervention from the government in Manila. A new entity will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which despite years of being in force, had failed to address the root causes of conflict in the South.

The European Union, in a statement issued by Maja Kocijancic, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the passage of BOL “represents an opportunity for the Filipino people to embrace peace and stability after decades of strife.”

“The EU remains a staunch supporter of the Mindanao Peace Process and is prepared to support the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in the future, in view of long-lasting peace, development and prosperity in Mindanao and for the Filipino people.”

Under provisions of the BOL, there will be 75-25 sharing of revenues in favour of the Bangsamoro, an automatic allocation of the annual block grant for the Bangsamoro equivalent to five per cent of the net national internal revenue, and cases involving Muslims will be tried in Sharia courts.

As a result of the implementation of the BOL, some 30,000 members of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Army will be deactivated.

These combatants could either be integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police or become part of the planned Bangsamoro Peacekeeping Force.

Meanwhile, senators said that with the impending implementation of the terms of BOL, there would not be the need for the adoption of a federal form of government as Duterte is advocating.

“The passage of the BOL shows that true local autonomy can be achieved within the framework, context, ideals, and spirit of the 1987 Constitution,” Senator Nancy Binay said in a statement issued yesterday.

Duterte had been pushing for the adoption of a federal form of government in place of the present unitary administration. The way to do this, he said, was through charter change.

“We have finally found the way to strengthen regions and local governments all within the constitutional framework as intended in the Local Government Code, and by giving our Muslim brothers and sisters the inherent right to govern themselves and defining a territory without raising a different flag,” Binay said.

Senator Leila de Lima said: “The present form of government under the 1987 Constitution already enshrines decentralisation and grants local governments autonomy over their jurisdiction.”