MILF: No peace deal if rest of annexes unsigned
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