No wealth-sharing deal yet between MILF, gov't

Posted at 07/12/2013 9:41 AM | Updated as of 07/12/2013 11:18 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) – The 38th round of talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government peace panel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ended on Thursday without reaching an agreement on the sensitive wealth-sharing annex.

Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said both sides did not reach an agreement on the sharing of wealth in the yet-to-be created Bangsamoro region because "the government position on the issue is too rigid."

Jaafar said the government wants a 50-50 percent wealth sharing with respect to the revenue to be obtained from the region's energy resources, but the MILF is asking for a 75-25 percent sharing favoring the Bangsamoro.

"Sa source ng energy, mas malaki, 50-50 [percent] ang gusto ng gobyerno, but I believe we cannot accept sapagkat ang 50 percent ay masyado ng malaki para sa partehan. Kailangan ito ng Bangsamoro," Jaafar told ANC.

Jaafar said the MILF is seeking a larger share in the resources of the region to ensure a good future for the next generations of Bangsamoro people.

"Masasabi ko na ang isa sa mga pinakamalaking dahilan kung bakit nananatiling halos pulubi ang mga Bangsamoro people sa loob ng napakahabang panahon ay sapagkat kontrolado ng central government ang yaman ng Bangsamoro people at politically marginalized ang Bangsamoro people," he said.

"Napaka-importante, napakahalaga nito para sa Bangsamoro people. Paano sila mabubuhay kung malaking bahagi nito ay mapupunta sa central government?" he added.

Despite the deadlock, Jaafar maintained that the MILF remains open to further negotiations.

Jaafar, however, lamented that the government has been "dictating" the tone of the negotiations and said it would be better if both sides return to their respective principals before resuming the talks.

"Ang 'di lang namin gusto eh lumalabas na parang nagiging diktahan ang negotiation. Ang kailangan ay pakinggan naman ang position ng MILF at open naman kami. Mayroon din kaming flexibility sa position na ito," he said.

"Hindi namin tinatapos at sinasarado ang pag-uusap tungkol sa wealth-sharing, power-sharing at tungkol sa normalization. Sa katunayan iyan ang posisyon namin. Ang posisyon namin ay kahit mayroong problema, patuloy na pag-uusapan ito sapagkat kung ang dalawang tao ay nag-uusap at tapat sa kanilang pag-uusap, posible na magkasundo ang dalawang tao," he added.

Talks extended

In a recent development, however, the government peace panel managed to extend the talks until today, according to chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

Coronel-Ferrer said both sides have yet to come up with a good compromise on key issues in the wealth-sharing annex such as taxation and revenue sharing.

"That is the understanding. We are committed to the process. We are ready to go into all the details of the text we are trying to put together. Of course, in the spirit of give and take, flexibility is something that both sides enjoy now," she told ANC.

"Both of us want to see these annexes [signed] as soon as possible. It would be unfortunate if further delays could happen."

Coronel-Ferrer said the government believes that its offer to the MILF is "fair, it's very good, much better than what other autonomous regions or even federal states are enjoying in other countries."

"The important thing is we are trying to come up with a very good fiscal arrangement for the Bangsamoro. If we look at the offer that the government is taking, you will find that put altogether, this will enable the Bangsamoro government that will be created by the Bangsamoro Basic Law to have a lot of resources that they can use for the benefit of their own constituencies," she said.

"That is the kind of package that we have put together. We are still working on the different elements, sometimes, it seems that we get lost in the trees and fail to see the whole forest."

Wealth-sharing was one of the contentious issues in the mothballed agreement between the government and the MILF in 2008, where the proposed sub-state was named the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The two sides returned to the negotiating table on Monday to hammer out the details of the three remaining annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization.

Jaafar said the annexes on power-sharing and normalization took the backseat in the latest round of talks between the two sides to give way to the more contentious wealth-sharing issue.

Together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, the three annexes will comprise the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro.