Gov't, MILF sign final annex on Bangsamoro

Posted at 01/25/2014 4:56 PM | Updated as of 01/25/2014 8:05 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday signed the 4th and final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that would hopefully bring peace and prosperity in Mindanao.

The annex on normalization was agreed upon after an "accommodating atmosphere" in the 43rd formal exploratory talks held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said both parties went through the toughest issues, including the annex on wealth and power sharing, that were signed last year.

On Friday, they talked about normalization as well as the jurisdiction that the planned Bangsamoro government would have over its water resources.

These are documents that had to be signed before both sides can finally clinch a comprehensive peace agreement.

"I think the mood is really to overcome the obstacle on the way. And we are actually seeing it now, that there is much confidence, there's much trust and there is so much accommodation by both party," Iqbal had said before the signing on Saturday.

Government negotiators explained normalization does not only deal with the decommissioning of MILF weapons. It also touches on socio-economic issues and transitional justice for the Bangsamoro people, provisions which were not included in previous peace agreements entered into by the government with other rebel groups.

"There's a whole annex on that at this time, which the past agreement did not have," Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Ging Deles said before the signing on Saturday.

A Filipino lawmaker who observed the negotiations brokered by Malaysia had cautioned government negotiators against not promising too much since Congress might not agree.

"Do not overpromise. Because Congress has to enact a law which will be constitutional," Senator Koko Pimentel earlier said.

Congress has a crucial role in the peace process as it will craft the basic law on the Bangsamoro.

President Aquino hopes to secure a final peace settlement before leaving office in mid-2016.

He warned last month that disarming the MILF would be a "heavy and contentious" issue.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar said before the signing on Saturday that the toughest part would be creating the region's police force, and detailing how it would interact with the Philippine National Police.

"I would say this would also be difficult because the discussion revolves around the security of the Bangsa Moro people (Filipino Muslims) and other residents of the Bangsa Moro (autonomous region)," Jaafar added.

Muslim groups have waged a rebellion since the 1970s. The insurgency has left some 150,000 people dead and parts of the southern Philippines mired in deep poverty and instability.

Apart from the MILF, many other armed groups operate in the south, including former rebels who had resorted to banditry and terrorism.

The situation has left parts of the southern Philippines mired in deep poverty and instability.

Amid deadly attacks there by other Muslim groups opposed to the talks last year, the two sides signed three other preliminary deals, including splitting revenues and power-sharing between the autonomous region and the national government.

A commission of Filipino and foreign experts has been meeting separately over the past few months to advise the negotiators on the creation of a security force for the area.

The proposed deal would also govern the deployment of Philippine military forces there. -- with reports from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse