PRESIDENTIAL peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal have agreed to make August 18 as their deadline to come up with a “fine-tuned and mutually acceptable” draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which they expect to submit to the President this month before it is submitted to Congress.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Deles said the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels are determined to finish the draft by August 18.
“The parties are committed to finish the draft BBL by August 18 in order to allow the [OP] to submit it to Congress in the soonest possible time. Both sides are mindful of the need to provide Congress with enough time to deliberate on the draft bill to ensure its timely passage into law,” Deles stressed.
According to her, the final touches on the Bangsamoro measure are being done “vigorously and diligently,” adding that no obstacle in the process would be insurmountable.
The BBL is the legal instrument that will entrench the Bangsamoro region upon its passage into law and ratification in the envisioned core territory.
The proposed law is the result of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed on March 27 in Malacanang with much fanfare after more than 17 years of protracted negotiations between the government and the MILF.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple welcomed the development, noting that a quick resolution of the issues on BBL will avert the outbreak of conflict.
“They have to agree. The alternative is undesirable to both,” Casiple told The Manila Times in a text message. He did not elaborate.
On Monday, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said their job is not yet over since the panels remained deadlocked on the thorny issues on power and wealth sharing.
“But we can now see light at the end of the tunnel,” Ferrer, however, said.
She noted that she and Iqbal will have to go back to their “principals”—President Benigno Aquino 3rd and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim—to report problems that need solutions.
Ferrer said both panels agree on the structure of the Bangsamoro government that will be established in Mindanao, but wealth sharing remains contentious even as the two panels are trying to come up with a formula that is “just, practical and feasible.”
Iqbal for his part said he was satisfied with the outcome of the 10-day marathon meetings held in Davao City.
“Practically, we have covered the proposed Basic Law from A to Z. We have covered a lot of ground, and we have settled a substantial part of it,” Iqbal said.
According to him, the sheer determination of the two sides to harmonize their ideas on the draft bill was essential.
“The parties were determined to overcome obstacles that came our way,” he stressed.
In the dark
But opposition Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. accused Deles and her group of keeping lawmakers in the dark relative to the developments on the BBL negotiations.
Marcos told The Manila Times that he wants to be updated on the matter, but his information mainly comes from the UK ambassador who is part of the international observations panel.
The senator chairs the Senate committee on local government to which the BBL draft will be referred to once the Senate receives the copy of the proposed law.
Marcos said further delay in the submission of the draft would make it difficult for Congress to pass the measure on time.
Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona 3rd in a separate interview said it would be better if the executive would give them updates so that lawmakers have an idea on what to expect.
He, however, assured that they would do their best to have the BBL passed on time.
Meanwhile, Marcos questioned the decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to allot funds for the implementation of the BBL despite the fact that Congress has yet to approve the law.
Marcos was referring to the P2.7 billion allotted for the BBL in the 2015 General Appropriation Act, which is separate from the reported P23 billion budget for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“I don’t know how will that work. It is very confusing, but we will check it once we start the budget deliberation,” he said.