Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, said the Aquino administration is working hard to achieve a “more doable and durable peace” in Mindanao by ensuring that it can deliver what it has committed.
“The President’s instruction has not waned: We will implement everything that we sign; GPH (Government of the Philippines) will deliver whatever we commit legally, politically and in all ways necessary. No false promises, no blind commitments, no agreement that will cause problems further down the road or bring harm to other areas of governance and reform which we will not be able to resolve and defend, especially when challenged before the court but in other arenas as well,” she said in her speech during the 27th Asia-Pacific Roundtable organized by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in the Malaysian capital.
Deles, along with Malaysian third-party facilitator, Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, was invited to discuss key steps needed to sustain peace in Mindanao in light of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by the GPH and the MILF in October 2012.
A historic document, the FAB outlines the roadmap for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro region that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The FAB, together with the annexes on Normalization, Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, will comprise the comprehensive agreement.
“It has taken more time to craft creative and technically viable solutions to enable the Bangsamoro to achieve the needed political and fiscal autonomy for its sustainable development and durable peace, but we are surely getting there,” stated Deles.
Since the FAB and all its annexes have been “carefully crafted,” the peace adviser said the GPH is confident that these “will be able to pass the crucial tests of implementation.”
Deles also stressed that the entire government is one in ensuring “clarity in how some of the new fiscal and power-sharing arrangements will be implemented, especially those which will have to be enacted into law.”
“Within the government, we have achieved a level of common understanding and cooperation with the concerned Cabinet clusters particularly on fiscal management and security that has been unprecedented in our long years in the peace process,” she said.
Positive despite challenges
Deles reiterated that the government remains “very positive” in the face of the delay over the annexes.
She pointed out the “elements of the roadmap that have been put into place and which continue to move forward,” such as the GPH-MILF ceasefire that has been holding since 2012, the establishment of the Transition Commission that has been tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program, which is a joint undertaking of the GPH and the MILF to uplift the health, economic and livelihood conditions of Bangsamoro communities.
“Still the challenges that lie ahead remain formidable,” Deles said citing the need for vigilance, political will and savvy in guarding the process of legislation of the Basic Law, which will be certified as urgent by the President, submitted to Congress for passage, and subjected to a plebiscite in the proposed core territory as stated in the FAB. Once ratified, the Bangsamoro region will be established and the ARMM will be abolished.
She also underscored the need for “new capacities and immense trust and goodwill on both sides” in the normalization process as well as delivery of development services that will not cause new conflicts in communities.
“The spirit of inclusiveness must be demonstrated not just in word but, more importantly, in deed by the leadership of all concerned stakeholders. In the law and beyond the law, legitimate institutions need to be built, reformed, and strengthened that will guarantee inclusive growth, increase participation in political and economic decision-making, as well as guard against interests that are inimical to social, political, and economic empowerment,” Deles added.
“The last remaining issues will be the most contentious,” she said. “Those who oppose the peace process will surely use all their wiles and resources for a final effort to derail the process. It is imperative that we don’t give up.”