News / Asia

Philippines Paves Way for Transition to Peaceful South

Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer (L) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (R) sign the peace agreement between both parties with AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed as a witness from Malays
Government of the Philippines (GPH) chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer (L) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (R) sign the peace agreement between both parties with AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed as a witness from Malays
Simone Orendain
The Philippines is expected to sign a permanent peace pact soon with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group. Officials have one month to craft a measure for an autonomous region, to be called Bangsamoro, in the Muslim majority southern Philippines. The pact would end decades of fighting that has cost more than 120,000 lives. 
 
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission must submit its first draft of the proposed agreement to the Office of the President by March 31. After that, the proposal has to make its way through Congress before legislators go on summer break.
 
The whole process is on a tight schedule that needs to be completed in time for the 2016 elections.
 
“The battle has now shifted to a more constructive engagement with Congress and other branches of government to realize that what are the essential elements in those agreements would be translated into law. It’s practically a new form of engagement, which is unfamiliar to me, especially,” said Mohagher Iqbal, head of the transition commission.
 
For 40 years, Iqbal, a ranking member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), fought the Philippine government for Muslims’ right to self-determination.  He became chief peace negotiator more than 10 years ago and now chairs the transition commission of former rebels, government officials and civil society that will draft the law to create a new self-governing region called “Bangsamoro.”
The proposed Bangsamoro area.The proposed Bangsamoro area.
x
The proposed Bangsamoro area.
The proposed Bangsamoro area.

The proposed measure would define Bangsamoro’s powers and structure. The new region is expected to have a parliamentary form of government with the ability to raise its own revenues and form its own law enforcement, among other powers. The central Philippines government would handle national defense, currency and postal services.
 
The next steps will be a “huge challenge,” according to Rommel Banlaoi, the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
 
“Congress is the main battleground now because there are members of Congress who have expressed their reservations on the proposed Bangsamoro Government and at the same time there were also apprehensions on the part of other stakeholders that the agreement is giving the MILF so much power already,” said Banlaoi.
 
Banlaoi pointed to the Philippine Congress’ history of lengthy debates, which sometimes can run on for years. Furthermore, he said, some local officials also have apprehensions about losing their power base with a new structure in place.  He said another challenge is the Muslim factions opposed to the agreement that have been resorting to violence. 
 
The proposed region essentially supersedes an existing autonomous region that was formed under a 1996 pact signed by a smaller rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front.
 
The ideal scenario is for Congress to pass the agreement by the end of the year, so that residents of the proposed region can decide in a referendum in 2015 whether they want to be part of the new entity. Once its borders are defined, they will elect leaders during the 2016 national elections. That is also when Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s term ends.
 
In a speech this week, Presidential Peace Advisor Teresita Deles said the peace process has strong support, but she also highlighted some of the difficulties ahead.
 
“We expect rigid scrutiny of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress. We shall fight for the bill with utmost transparency and professionalism, and with only the national interest in mind. In this, we have the full support of the national leadership,” said Deles.
 
Rommel Banlaoi warned that in the rush to have a bill signed, some parts might be “watered down”. Iqbal said the Basic Law will be “flexible” because the fine details are supposed to be woven into legislation to be created by the new Bangsomoro parliament.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs