MANILA – President Benigno S. Aquino III has reiterated his commitment to the peace process in Mindanao, declaring in a statement prior to his departure for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United States (ASEAN-US) summit in California that he would discuss the Bangsamoro peace process and the shelved Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) with his fellow leaders.
“Ito na nga po ang pinakahuling ASEAN Summit na dadaluhan ko bilang Pangulo ng Pilipinas. Ito na rin ang pinakahuling pagkakataon na maibabahagi ko sa kapwa nating mga pinuno ng ASEAN ang paninindigan natin sa ating prosesong pangkapayapaan, na siya nating ambag sa pagtugon sa isyu ng extremism at kawalan ng stabilidad ( This is indeed the last ASEAN Summit that I will attend as the President of the Philippines. This is also the last time that I can share with my fellow ASEAN leaders our resolve to this peace process, that is our contribution in responding to the issues of extremism and lack of stability),” said Aquino.
US President Barack Obama will be hosting the 10 ASEAN leaders at the Rancho Mirage in Sunnylands, California. The aim of the meeting is to further strengthen and improve the Joint Strategic Partnership between ASEAN nations and America.
The last ASEAN-US summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in November 2015. This will be the first time that the meet will be conducted on US soil.
Among others, Aquino is expected to attend the summit’s Retreat Session 2 “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific”.
Focusing on the BBL, Aquino stressed the importance of the BBL in achieving peace and development in the Philippine south.
“Naudlot man ang panukalang Bangsamoro Basic Law sa ating Kongreso, di nagbabago ang ating posisyon ukol sa BBL: Ito pa rin pinakatamang landas tungo sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran para sa Mindanao (Even though our Congress failed to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, our position on the BBL remains: It is still the most appropriate path toward peace and development in Mindanao).”
“Sa ating pagpupulong, ilalatag natin ang mga kongkretong hakbang na ating ipapatupad sa kabila ng pagkakabinbin ng BBL (In our meeting, we will outline concrete steps that we will implement despite the non-passage of the BBL),” he added.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate went on recess last Feb. 5 till after the national and local elections without passing the proposed measure that would have replaced the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a parliamentary regional government with more political and fiscal autonomy.
As early as the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 27, 2014, President Aquino already pinned high hopes on the BBL. “The Bangsamoro shall form a perimeter of vigilance against the spread of extremism; it shall act as a bridge of moderation among the great faiths of the various constituencies in ASEAN,” he declared then.
“As the Bangsamoro matures, it shall serve as the gateway to trade, investment, and cultural exchanges within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area and its environs – igniting a virtuous cycle of security, development, and equitable progress for the peoples of the entire region,” the President declared at the CAB signing.
In a recently concluded two-day special meeting (Feb. 10 to 11) held in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reiterated their continued commitment to the peace process despite the non-passage of the BBL.
This was also echoed by the representatives of the various peace structures and mechanisms of the Bangsamoro peace process.
“The two Parties reaffirmed their commitment to stay the course of peace. They shall sustain the existing peace infrastructure. This infrastructure is fundamental in keeping the peace on the ground and supporting the implementation of the CAB. It is important that it remains functional for the next administration to carry forward the implementation of the agreements,” said the panels in a joint statement after the meeting.
Under the CAB, the implementation of certain provisions would move alongside legislative developments in the BBL. For instance, the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants and the transformation of MILF camps into productive, peaceful communities will only be completed once the BBL has been passed and the Bangsamoro regional government has been established.
Although the non-passage of the BBL has adversely affected the timeline of establishing the Bangsamoro entity, both parties agreed that the means forward is the early passage of the landmark measure in the next administration and 17th Congress.