'Bangsamoro' OK'd as gov't, MILF forge landmark deal

Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

(UPDATE) The "Bangsamoro" will be a new autonomous political entity in the Philippines, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Sunday said, as he announced that the government has forged a deal ending the decades-old insurgency of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"The ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun," the President said.

"And now, we have forged an agreement that seeks to correct these problems," Aquino said.

"This agreement creates a new political entity, it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao. That name will be Bangsamoro," Aquino said.

He added that the new deal is seen to pave the way for "final, enduring peace in Mindanao."

"It brings all former secessionist groups into the fold; no longer does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aspire for a separate state," Aquino noted.

The announcement came after the latest round of protracted peace talks between the government and the Muslim rebels ended in Malaysia Saturday.

There have been 32 rounds of negotiations since 2003, with 13 rounds under the Aquino incumbency.

The President, however, noted, that "the Philippines remains one nation and one people," adding that "the Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro."

"National government will continue to exercise exclusive powers of defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and coinage, citizenship, and naturalization," Aquino said.

"The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony," he added.

The new autonomous political entity, Aquino said, will also "enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice."

What areas will Bangsamoro cover?

Bangsamoro's territory will be composed of the present geographical area of the ARMM, the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, as well as  the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte, a draft of the agreement posted on the government website showed.

Other barangays in the municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit and Midsayap that voted inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite will also be part of the Bangsamoro.

The draft added: "[A]ll other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in the area asking for the inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law."

Despite the landmark deal, the President stressed that peace in Mindanao is still a work in progress, adding that "there are still details that both sides must hammer out."

"Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge," the President noted.

The pact has yet to be signed, with Aquino adding that details of the newly forged deal will be published online and in national papers in days.

"Nakalahad po ang lahat, at wala kaming tangkang magkubli o maglihim (All details will be bared and we have no intention of keeping the public in the dark)," Aquino said.

"Sinuri po namin nang maigi ang kasunduang ito; balanse ang ating naabot. Itinatama nito ang mali, at naglalagay ng mga mekanismo (We have scrutinized the agreement; we have achieved a balance. It corrects mistakes and establishes mechanisms)," he added.

"Basahin po sana natin ang kasunduang ito hindi bilang 'sila' at 'kami,' kundi bilang nagkakaisang 'tayo' sa ilalim ng bandilang Pilipino (I hope this deal will be appreciated not in terms of 'them' or 'us' but as 'we' under one Filipino banner)," Aquino said.