• More work needed after signing of MILF peace pact

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    THE Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will be signed on March 27 in Malacañang but to the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels, there will be more work to be done after the inking of the historic pact.

    Peace negotiators who have just returned from an executive session held in Kuala Lumpur express readiness to “hit the ground running” for the implementation of the agreement that will pave the way for the creation of the envisioned Bangsamoro
    political entity by 2016.

    In a radio interview, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said both parties have agreed on and initialed the introductory text to the comprehensive agreement on March 22 in Malaysia. She explained that the initialed document identified the component parts of the pact, reiterates the goals of the peace negotiations and lays down the general principles that will guide the implementation of the agreement.

    Coronel-Ferrer said they were “also able to complete the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the mechanisms that will be put in place for the Annex on Normalization, which was signed last
    January.”

    The TORs include those for the Joint Normalization Committee, Independent Decommissioning Body, and Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission. These bodies will support the normalization process through which MILF forces can transition to productive civilian lives and participate in governance reform.

    “A body will be created to study the meaning of reconciliation and justice for the people in Mindanao in order for us to make the healing process as comprehensive as possible,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

    But she noted that enormous work awaits both parties after the signing of the pact. “There are many things to be done,” she stressed, explaining that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission will have to finish the Bangsamoro Basic Law by March 31 and identify the people who will draw the mechanisms.

    “There’s no time to rest. We pause briefly for the celebratory signing of the CAB and then go back to work,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

    She added that ensuring the right implementation of the agreement is crucial for lasting peace and development in Mindanao.

    “The government panel is consolidating our programs and will be putting up an office in Cotabato so that we will be very much on the ground. We have to do everything quite fast but without sacrificing the principles of inclusivity and transparency,” she said.

    Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel, said the signing of the peace agreement will be the key to the progress and development of Mindanao.

    “It will be a radical transformation, with its vast natural resources that will be open to local and foreign investors. With peace at hand, we can see a rapid progress and growth in the region that will benefit natives of Mindanao,” he said.

    Eid Kabalu, a Muslim official, agreed that the historic pact will be the “preface of a new beginning” in the South.

    “This is a moment of immense pride, relief and joy. We have arrived at a new era of understanding, security and opportunities now available for all Filipinos — be they Muslim, Christian, or member of our indigenous groups,” he said.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier encouraged businessmen and foreign investors to see the potential of Mindanao.

    This was echoed by Trade Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo Jr. who said the signing of the framework agreement will open business opportunities.

    “Mindanao now becomes a very fertile area for investments, particularly for agricultural activities. In fact, we are developing economic zones and incentives in affected areas in Mindanao to be able to spur economic growth,” Manalo said in his keynote speech during the Invest Philippines Business Forum held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    PNA

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