Australia shows support for Bangsamoro deal

Written by John Unson, The Philippine Star .

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The Australian government is convinced the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) is a durable political settlement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that can put closure to armed conflicts in southern Mindanao.

“A successful peace process can create the conditions for security and economic development in the region - bringing about an improvement in the lives of people who lives there,” Australian embassy’s first secretary, Warren Hoye, on Sunday said during the launching in Davao City of the Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace (Pro PolitiCS for Peace) program.

The Pro PolitiCS for Peace is to be bankrolled by the Australian Agency for International Development through the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), which will implement the project in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The IAG, involved in various-peace-building projects in predominantly Moro areas for more than a decade now, is a partner outfit of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany.

Besides Hoye, the government’s chief negotiator with the MILF, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, lawyer Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Abdullah Camlian of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, political analyst Malou Tiquia and Claretian Missionary Angel Calvo of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, also graced Sunday’s Pro PolitiCS for Peace launching in Davao City.

Also present in the event were lawyer Salma Rasul of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, and Maranaw and Maguindanaon local officials jointly led by the president of the Maguindanao mayors league, Mayor Freddie Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, his sibling Assemblyman Khadafy Mangudadatu of the ARMM’s 24-seat Regional Assembly, and appointed provincial deputy governor Ramil Dilangalen.

In his message, Hoye also reaffirmed the Australian government’s commitment to help push the Mindanao peace process forward through interventions meant to address-illiteracy and promote good governance.

The Australian-funded Pro PolitiCS for Peace will be implemented by the IAG in all of the ARMM’s component areas --- Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in Central Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Lawyer Benedicto Bacani, director of IAG, said the program is meant to promote a “good political climate,” stability and cooperation among Muslims, Christians and lumad sectors in the Bangsamoro core territory.

He said the Pro PolitiCS for Peace aims to help improve the governance capability and public administration thrusts of local officials in the ARMM provinces.

The Mangudadatu siblings, who both represented Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, and ARMM’s local government secretary, Hadji Anwar Malang, promised to help the IAG and AusAid implement the project in the autonomous region.

Hoye said their support to the Pro PolitiCS for Peace is part of Australia’s continuing support to the Mindanao peace process.

Australia has been extending fiscal support to various peace-advocacy and education projects in Mindanao since after the crafting on Sept. 2, 1996 of the final peace pact between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.

The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 in Malacañang by Ferrer and her counterpart in the MILF, Muhaquer Iqbal, after 17 years of peace talks that spanned the terms of three presidents - Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Australia also provides substantial support to education in the ARMM through the Basic Education Assistance to Mindanao, implemented jointly by AusAID and the Department of Education.

“After many decades of violence and conflict in Mindanao, the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro offers the basis for a durable political settlement for the people of Mindanao and Philippines,” Hoye said.

Sunday’s launching of the Pro PolitiCS for Peace in Davao City was capped off with a forum dubbed Governance and Politics for Peace in the Evolving Bangsamoro, where local officials talked about their views on the draft BBL, which is now being deliberated by Congress.

The bill, premised on the CAB, is the enabling measure for the creation of an MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity that would eventually replace the ARMM once approved and ratified via a plebiscite in the selected southern areas.

Participants to the forum signed a manifesto favoring the enactment into law of the draft BBL.

By John Unson of The Philippine Star