• MILF praises Japan for support to peace, devt

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has praised Japan for its strong support to the peace process     and development in the     southern Philippines.

    MILF vice chairman and chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Japan has been playing an active role in an international effort to monitor the cease-fire agreement between the former Muslim rebel group and the Philippine government.

    “We are grateful to the government of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for several assistances they have been extending to the Bangsamoro. Japan has been playing active roles in the International Monitoring Team, International Contact Group and Independent Commission on Policing,” he said during the launching of the Japan-funded Human Resource Mapping in Cotabato City on June 4.

    The program was attended by Takahiro Morita, senior sepresentative of JICA Philippine office, and Shinichi Masuda and Kazuhiro Okamoto, also members of the Japanese aid agency.

    It was designed to gather data on Muslim professionals and store their files so that in the event the future Bangsamoro government requires workers, there would be easily accessible database.

    Speaking before professionals during the launching, Iqbal cited the importance of professionalism among civil servants, especially in the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous regional government. The new government would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that has suffered from decades of poverty, corruption, and conflict.

    ARMM abolition

    But Iqbal said the abolition of ARMM—comprised of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi—would be gradually in several phases and he assured the rights of civil workers.

    He said there is nothing to be worried about even if the ARMM is abolished because “the bulk of the bureaucracy of the future Bangsamoro government would not come from the ranks and file of the MILF since the latter would enjoy the fruits of the more than 40 years of struggle in some ways that would be fitting and special for them.”

    “Certainly much of the bureaucracy for the incoming Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the future Bangsamoro government would substantially come from the ARMM because they have the training already,” he added.

    Iqbal said while some of the MILF leaders would be in the prospective Bangsamoro government, majority would not be part of bureaucracy because they are not trained to be part of it.

    “Their forte and training was something else,” he said.

    Iqbal also emphasized though that over and above the training and competence, is to put in place a new value system that gives premium to accountability.

    “It is the value system that determines the kind of people running a government. The MILF envisions that accountability is not only to the people, but more so to Allah,” he said.

    Iqbal also urged Muslim professionals to journey with them in the quest for genuine self-governance and said that “efforts to transition require the entire Bangsamoro society and thus the MILF has to be inclusive and this inclusive policy includes resource mobilization and capacity development for everybody. People have to be the focus of development and empowerment since our society has already suffered a lot”.

    The Philippine government and MILF peace negotiators signed the Comprehensive Agreement of Bangsamoro in March.

    The Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to President Benigno Aquino 3rd in April so he can sign it before it goes to Congress for approval.

    Once Aquino signs the BBL, it can be ratified and implemented in time for the 2016 local and national elections. The BBL will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao.

    The creation of Bangsamoro autonomous region would have to be decided on a referendum in the ARMM and in areas     where there are large Muslim communities probably before the year ends.

    The MILF—a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996—is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group which

    fought for decades for self-determination in Mindanao.

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