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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora