Saturday, December 7, 2013

Opening Statement of GPH Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the 42nd GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur

From the Website of OPPAP

Opening Statement of GPH Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on the 42nd GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur 

Posted on Thursday, Dec 5th, 2013

December 5, 2013

Good morning to everyone, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian Secretariat and the members of the ICG, Ueno-san (Japan), Nikash-san (UK), and others who will come eventually from the state and from our very committed civil society members of the international NGO members of the International Contact Group (ICG), Ali Saleem of Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), Emma Leslie of Conciliation Resources, Dr. Sudibyo Markus (Muhammadiyah), and Alberto Quattrucci (Community of Sant'Egidio). Kristian Herbolzheimer is not with us. He is back in Barcelona and Tom Phipps (UK) is still busy with the delegation from the Philippine National Police including our representative in the ICP, PDir. Lina Sarmiento, led by the Chief of the PNP, Director General Alan Purisima, looking at the experience of Northern Ireland with regard to policing reform and so on. We are certain that will serve them well in the work of the ICP.

Our counterparts of course, led by Chair Mohagher Iqbal and members of the Panel, Brother Bobby, Brother Abhoud, and Brother Kinoc. The rest of his delegation, we are happy to see you once again, people we have not seen for a long time: Jucra, Timuay Melanio Ulama, who has not been here for several meetings, and Ishak is back, Roslaine is back, Naguib we have seen many times, and Haj, congratulations – Hajj Haj, on your successful hajj. He has his new look. And our observers from WeAct, Jude. Later on we will be joined by several government officials who will arrive probably on Saturday for the last day with high hopes for a very good ending on Saturday.

We apologize in the delay for the opening of the talks. We thank you for accommodating our request to postpone the formal opening from yesterday to today and convening instead the sub-panel to work on the draft on the Normalization Annex. We believe that they were able to cover significant ground on their meeting yesterday. Also, we apologize for coming a little bit late today. Former Secretary Senen Bacani, Atty Anna Basman, and I arrived at the hotel at almost 2 AM last night. We took the last flight, a very convenient flight, a very good schedule, the 9 PM flight of Malaysia Air. It is amazing how much traffic there is between Malaysia and the Philippines, now that Malaysia Air has added a new flight. Four (4) flights a day, so that is a lot of engagement between the two (2) countries.

In April 2012, just a little bit of review of recent history, we signed the first set of consensus between us, the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles. In October 2012, in a grand ceremony in Malacañan, we signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Afterwards, we completed two annexes – the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities in February this year, followed by the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing in July. In between, we launched in another grand ceremony, this time in Camp Darapanan, in the presence again of President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on 11 April 2013, the Sajahatra Bangsamoro attended by the Facilitator as well. Oh, no, you missed it. You had an important event at that time, you married off somebody. But Madame Che was there.

Now, we are at the brink of completing the Power Sharing and Normalization Annexes.

So what has the Bangsamoro people gained so far? Starting with the most important:

· The acknowledgement of and a good, inclusive and non-imposing definition of the Bangsamoro identity;

· The acknowledgment of the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people;

· A potentially expanded core territory for the Bangsamoro, based on the consent of the governed;

· A ministerial form of government with a unique structure of government, unique because it is the only one of its kind in the rest of the country;

· Much-enhanced wealth sharing arrangement. We know that ARMM did indeed suffer from real structural deficiencies that did not allow it to exercise fiscal autonomy, so now we have the additional taxes devolved and new sharing formula from government revenues, increasing the shares for the Bangsamoro;

· The most important, the automatically appropriated and to be regularly released Bangsamoro block grant;

· The Special Development Fund for rehabilitation and development purposes, to be released upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law;

· Special socio-economic programs for conflict affected areas, including combatants and their communities that will be part of the Normalization process;

· A holistic program to be developed for transitional justice and reconciliation;

· A proactive role in keeping the peace in their communities for the MILF;

· A new concept called “Bangsamoro waters,” again very unique because we will not find this water regime in other parts of the country;

· A plural system for the administration of justice;

· A list of powers including around 50 exclusive powers or fully devolved powers and more than 10-15 concurrent or joint powers relating to the administration of justice, the management and protection of various resources, disaster risk reduction and management, trade and economic development, and matters important to the practices and way of life of Muslims (hajj, umrah, halal certification, Shari’ah courts);

· Various intergovernmental mechanisms such as the intergovernmental fiscal policy board, intergovernmental body for environmental and developmental plans and, as contemplated in the Power Sharing Annex, a similar IGR mechanism between the Bangsamoro legislature and the Philippine Congress;

· We now have a Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) whom incidentally we met with yesterday only because some of us have stayed behind and we bumped into them in the hotel. And they sent their regards to the MILF and expressed their interest in meeting with the MILF, especially the Chair of the MILF Panel if his schedule would allow it either on December 8 or 9. So we are extending this message to our counterparts if it can be done, a meeting with the TPMT in Manila on Sunday or Monday before the Chair of the TPMT, former EU Ambassador Alistair Macdonald returns to Myanmar. And for this meeting of the TPMT, they have actually tried to complete their Code of Ethics, the internal rules that will govern the work of the TPMT, and have also scheduled several consultations with different sectors;

· Lastly, we have very good Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) with the very tough work plan which requires meeting almost regularly, almost daily, in order to complete their task of coming up with their recommendations within six (6) months. And so we expect that these recommendations would be ready by April to be incorporated. That is the elements that will be needing legislation in the BBL through the panel and especially through the Transition Commission.

In all, we have the elements of a promising, just, and principled agreement that will stand scrutiny of informed and concerned students and practitioners of negotiated political settlements. This much we have proven recently at the Wilton Park conference that brought together government negotiators and third party facilitators, organized with the support of the Foreign Commonwealth Office of the British Government and attended by several of us here including our facilitator here, Tengku Ghafar, along with the Malaysian Facilitator with the Talks on the Southern Thailand process, myself, the former Chair of the Panel Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, and Secretary Deles as well as by Emma Leslie and Tom Phipps of course who is very much on top of organizing this conference.

Government has committed to all of these elements in good faith, and trust that the MILF will use this chance to prove the potential of Bangsamoro leadership and autonomous governance. That in return, the MILF will prove that it is ready to transform and participate in nonviolent politics. That it is cognizant of the rights of all sectors who will fall under the administrative and political jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity.

That, in the same way that the central government accords the Bangsamoro with respect and parity of esteem, so will it ensure the protection of vested property rights, the recognition of customary laws and rights to communal property of other indigenous peoples (IPs), the recognition of women’s right to meaningful political participation and provisions for plans along the lines of Gender and Development; the basic rights of all regardless of class, creed, disability, gender and ethnicity; and the bridging of differences with other Moro groups – in order to ensure not only broad based support for this process and its implementation but the long-term wellbeing, peace, security and belongingness of those Filipinos and Moros who will live under the politico-administrative jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity that is part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines.

We know that there are details that we still need to come to terms with. But none are so great as to throw away everything that has been achieved.

Article IX under the section Miscellaneous of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) says, “The parties commit to work further on the details of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in the context of this document and complete the comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.”

The wisdom in this formulation is that it did not say “this year” which was 2012 meaning the year that the FAB was signed. And I understand, after checking this with the former Chair, that this is in fact the wisdom of the MILF Chair Mohagher Iqbal, that the exact formulation came from him, to complete the Comprehensive Agreement by the end of the year. So of course, therefore it could mean 2013, 2014, and so on. But greater wisdom indeed compels us that “the end of the year” be this year and no other year.

The Aquino administration has less than 1,000 days left, let us make the most of these days, before we get caught again in the whirlpool of the next electoral campaign, or our national attention and resources again be consumed by the next super typhoon, earthquake or other devastating events.

So the time is now!

Thank you. - See more at:

OPPAP Website



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