MILF: NO PEACE DEAL IF REST OF ANNEXES UNSIGNED; WEALTH SHARING OKAYED, 2 TO GO
 


Wealth-sharing annex signed. This photo taken on July 13 and released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process shows, from left, government peace panel chairwoman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tenku Mohamed, and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal signing the wealth-sharing annex and statement in Malaysia. The Philippine government said it had resolved a key hurdle in its peace talks with Muslim rebels, bringing it closer to ending an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. AFP Wealth-sharing annex signed. This photo taken on July 13 and released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process shows, from left, government peace panel chairwoman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tenku Mohamed, and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal signing the wealth-sharing annex and statement in Malaysia. The Philippine government said it had resolved a key hurdle in its peace talks with Muslim rebels, bringing it closer to ending an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. AFP
 

MANILA, July 15, 2013 (STANDARD) By Joyce Pangco Panares - THE Bangsamoro autonomous region will get the lion’s share of revenues from the taxes it collects and from the use of its mineral resources, except uranium and fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal, which it will split 50-50 with the national government, peace negotiators said Sunday.

“It was a close call. But both parties’ persistence and goodwill bore fruit. We have a good package, one that we believe would make fiscal autonomy in the Bangsamoro a reality,” said the government’s chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer who signed the annex on wealth sharing with her counterpart in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal, as part of a comprehensive peace agreement to end the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.

The talks on wealth sharing ended close to midnight Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

Last week’s round of formal talks in Malaysia was supposed to last for only four days or until Thursday, but was extended for another two days at the request of the Philippine negotiating panel.

The signing took place at a time when government troops clashed with members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group of the MILF, in Mindanao.

This weekend’s signing met the government timetable to have at least one of the three remaining annexes signed before July 22, when President Benigno Aquino III delivers his State-of-the-Nation Address.

The signed annexes on transitional arrangements and wealth sharing as well as the still unsigned annexes on power-sharing and normalization (disarmament), will complete the comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

The peace pact will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which the President described as a “failed experiment.”

Ferrer said the wealth-sharing annex will “correct the flaws in the current fiscal system in the ARMM.”

MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar welcomed the terms of the deal but said his group was “not fully satisfied.”

MILF originally wanted a 75-25 sharing in the Moros’ favor. “At least, we achieved something,” Jaafar said.

Under the eight-page wealth-sharing annex, only 25 percent of the central government taxes, fees and charges collected in the Bangsamoro region, other than tariff and custom duties will go to the National Treasury.

Government income derived from the operations of state-owned and -controlled corporations, financial institutions, economic zones, and freeports operating within the area will also go to the Bangsamoro region.

The newly created region – which must still be approved by a referendum — will also enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and use of metallic minerals within the region.

Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium will be shared equally by the Bangsamoro with the central government.

The annex also provides for the creation of a Special Development Fund for the Bangsamoro “for rehabilitation and development purposes upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Ferrer said progress was also made by the groups working on the power-sharing and normalization annexes.

Normalization is the term used by both sides to describe the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of MILF combatants.

Jaafar said discussion would next focus on the power-sharing annex. “There would be no signing of any agreement without all the annexes signed first,” he stressed.

Earlier, Ferrer said the Transition Commission, the body tasked to recommend a Basic Law that would create the Bangsamoro political entity, was expected to complete its work before the end of the year.

“The draft Basic Law will be submitted to Congress and will be certified as urgent by the President. The scenario is that by early 2014 or mid-2015, we will be able to pass the law, after which a plebiscite will be held in the areas that will be defined in the law,” she said.

The President said he wants the Basic Law to be enacted by 2015, with an interim authority in place a year before the 2016 national elections.

“We need the organic act enacted into law by 2015. This will be passed through Congress and approved in a plebiscite and we hope to install the new government with a mandate after 2016 elections. There will be an interim authority from 2015 to 2016,” Aquino said in an earlier interview. With Florante Solmerin

Peace gab marred by fresh clashes By Florante S. Solmerin | Posted on Jul. 14, 2013 at 12:02am | 614 views

Army, BIFF renew fighting: seven killed

A new round of fighting between Army troops and a renegade group of Muslim rebels broke out on Saturday, leaving seven people dead amid peace talks aimed at ending a decades-old rebellion, a military official said. Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, who oppose the main Islamic rebel group’s negotiations with Manila, ambushed an Army truck in Mindanao, regional military spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said.

Two soldiers were wounded in the initial volley, but the army gave chase to the retreating gunmen and killed five of them, he said in a written report.

“Reinforcement troops encountered 20 armed men believed to be BIFF members. A firefight ensued and five of the lawless elements were killed,” Hermoso said.

The pursuit also left two soldiers dead and four other soldiers wounded, he added.

The BIFF had mounted attacks on Mindanao on July 6, two days before the government resumed peace talks with the region’s main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It is led by Ameril Umbrakato, a Saudi Arabia-trained cleric who was expelled by the MILF

in 2011 for his hardline stance against the peace talks.

The earlier fighting had left five soldiers and three gunmen dead and sparked fears that it would affect the peace talks.

The peace talks aim to create an autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao, the southern third of the mainly Catholic nation of 100 million.

The two sides signed a preliminary deal in October outlining the broad terms for a peace treaty that would be signed by 2016.

The Kuala Lumpur talks aim to spell out revenue-sharing terms with the national government in the self-rule area.

The talks were continuing on Saturday, President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in an interview on government radio.

In a phone interview, the official from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process who was in Kuala Lumpur expressed hope that both parties would finally agree on a wealth-sharing scheme.

“Given the good mood that they had on Friday, we are hopeful that both parties would finally agree on the wealth-sharing scheme,” the OPPAP source said.

The supposed four-day talks were extended until Saturday after both parties failed to enter into a compromise over the issue of revenue-sharing as well as taxation.

MILF vice-chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said both sides agreed in February to a 75-25 wealth-sharing formula, but the government changed its mind and insisted on a 50-50 formula, which the MILF found unacceptable.

There were reports that the MILF panel have “walked-out” from the talks on Thursday due to the issue.

The source said that the MILF never walked out from the talks although he admitted that the situation was tense.

The source explained that panel members appeared to be “stressed out” since the Islamists were celebrating Ramadan and could not come home for the tradition and instead stayed late for the prolonged discussion.

“And the reason they easily became stressed was because they are fasting. They did not eat the whole day and some of us in the government are also fasting in solidarity with the Islamists,” the source added.

The 12,000-member MILF has waged a guerrilla war for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao since the 1970s that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives. With Sara Fabunan and AFP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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