• Govt-MILF peace pact signed by January

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    The approval of the agreement on power sharing raised hopes that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) can sign the final comprehensive peace pact in January.

    With only the annex on normalization left to tackle, both panels are confident the discussions will pick up pace.

    The two sides on Sunday signed the Annex on Power-Sharing and agreed that the unresolved issue on Bangsamoro waters be treated as an addendum to the annexes on Power-Sharing and Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing.

    Miriam Colonel-Ferrer, the government’s chief negotiator, said both parties “can go full blast in their work” now that the power-sharing issue has been resolved.

    The two panels will meet in January to complete the Annex on Normalization and the addendum on Bangsamoro waters.

    “In the meantime, the Transition Commission is going on with their meetings in the next few weeks,” Ferrer said.

    The Annex on Power Sharing took 16 months to negotiate, from the time the Technical Working Groups first convened in August 2012.

    According to Ferrer, the signing of the power-sharing agreement comes 30 months before the end of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term. The President wanted the peace agreement with the MILF signed before he steps down.

    Ferrer likened the power-sharing annex to a baby born out of a difficult pregnancy.

    “Now this newborn baby will have to be introduced to the world. We expect that a good number out there would be eager to see it, scrutinize its different parts and get to know about it more,” she said.

    “In its genes are encoded the shape of the future Bangsamoro political entity. But we know that all these will have to be translated into the Bangsamoro Basic Law – one that will put in place a strong, viable autonomous governance for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, and connect with its siblings and cousins who came before them and will come after them,” she added.

    The annex is the third of four needed to complete the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The first, on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, was signed in February and that on Revenue-Generation and Wealth-Sharing in July.

    Ferrer admitted many challenges lie ahead but they are “ready for that even as we remain focused on the immediate task on hand, which is to finish once and for all the Annex on Normalization and an addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and put in place the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

    “We understand that there has been some delay but we are still working on the same timeline which is that to establish the Bangsamoro government and hold the first elections in 2016,” Ferrer said.

    Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate looks forward to scrutinizing the proposed law that will institute the reforms called for in the agreement. He said the chamber will give priority to the passage of the Bangsamoro basic law.

    “Peace is the perfect gift to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao this season. I laud the Philippine government and the MILF for their efforts to make peace and harmony and prosperity – elusive for so many generations – become a reality in our lifetime,” Drilon said in a statement.

    Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd, who chairs the committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, said that despite the sensitivity of the issues, the panels came up with a resolution that brought the country closer to achieving lasting peace in the region.

    “With only one more Annex left to be passed by the panels, I look forward to sponsoring the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Senate,” he said.

    With a report from Jefferson Antiporda

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