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Esperon: Bangsamoro juridical entity could be federal state

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‘Will need Constitutional amendment’

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:50:00 07/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — The Bangsamoro juridical entity resulting from peace negotiations between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could be a federal state that is “more advanced” than an autonomous region, the presidential peace adviser said Thursday.

But its creation will require a constitutional amendment and a plebiscite in 712 villages in the provinces of Lanao Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay, and Palawan, to determine whether or not they want to be included in the juridical entity, presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

The negotiations scored a breakthrough Wednesday, after both panels agreed to strike out the word “freedom” in reference to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, from a draft memorandum of agreement (MoA) on the hotly-debated ancestral domain issue.

Both panels will meet against on July 24 to schedule the signing of the MoA, which will pave the way for the resumption of formal talks.

“The MoA will mean the beginning of the formal peace talks. How long it will take, we don’t know yet as there remain to be issues that have to be resolved,” Esperon said.

However, because “a federal state is not allowed within our current legal framework and so if we go through that, then the agreement will not be executory until we have the enabling act which could come in the form of a Constitution,” he said.

“If we need to amend the Constitution, we will go there,” he said.

The MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohager Iqbal, could not be reached on his mobile phone for comment.

Six months after the MoA on ancestral domain is signed, Esperon said the plebiscite would be held in the 712 villages.

These villages will be on top of the existing territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is was established after the government struck a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the late 1990s, Esperon said.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF after the latter forged a peace pact with the government.

Esperon said the villages make up a “considerable” land area, and are predominantly Muslim, but with Christian communities.

Asked where a possible peace accord with the MILF would leave the MNLF, Esperon said “there should be some unification” between the two groups. But he said it was up to both rebel groups to discuss this.

Under the draft MoA, Esperon said the Bangsamoro entity would have “jurisdiction and control” over resources found 15 kilometers from the shoreline.

“Beyond that, there will be joint control in the sharing of these critical resources, primarily fuel, oil and other such critical minerals,” he said. The sharing ratio will be 75 percent and 25 percent in favor of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Esperon said a peace agreement with the MILF would also be a boost to the government’s crackdown on Al Qaeda-linked extremists like the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah.

With the agreement, Esperon said there would be “cooperation on the ground” and the extremists would be “isolated.”

The MILF has been accused of harboring the Al Qaeda-linked militants, but the leadership has consistently denied this.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-07-17T23:52:32+00:00UTC07bUTCThu, 17 Jul 2008 23:52:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm07

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