OPENING REMARKS of SECRETARY TERESITA QUINTOS-DELES Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process at the 5th OIC-GPH-MNLF Meeting for the Tripartite Review Process 25 January 2016 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahitaala Wabarakatuh! Peace be upon us.
I convey the heartfelt greetings of goodwill and peace of His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who has always been supportive of our efforts to find peace in Southern Philippines; to His Excellency Iyad Bin Amin Madani, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; to the OIC General Secretariat headed by His Excellency Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, Special Envoy to the Southern Philippines Peace Process; to the honorable members of the OIC Philippine Committee on Southern Philippines); and to representatives of the OIC Member States participating in this Tripartite Review Process (TRP).
President Aquino likewise extends his felicitations and best wishes to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in particular to the distinguished leaders of the Front who are attending this ministerial meeting.
In behalf of the Philippine Government and President Aquino, I acknowledge and extend our sincerest gratitude to the OIC for convening once again this ministerial meeting. We hail and thank you for your noble-minded, steadfast, and statemanly leadership in the work of the TRP in the past eight (8) years. We specifically thank the Secretary General for supporting President Aquino’s comprehensive peace agenda in Mindanao by personally travelling to the Philippines last April, 2015, and by endorsing not only the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) but also endorsing in the strongest possible terms the original draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Your hard work manifests our shared conviction that this Process has been and is increasingly important and crucial to the overarching quest for peace in Mindanao and the Philippines. Your extraordinary and determined support has enabled this Tripartite Review Process to reach this crucial historic moment of decision, which is its successful conclusion, to reach another high summit in the peace process – one which will bring unprecedented peace and socio-economic well-being to not only the Muslims in the autonomous region but to the eleven million projected total population of Muslim Filipinos, 44.4 % of whom are estimated to reside in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). If time will allow, we will be happy to brief this gathering further regarding the measures being undertaken by the government under the leadership by the NCMF to ensure that the entire Philippine umrah, inside and outside the autonomous region, are able to enjoy and exercise this full rights granted to all citizens under the Philippine constitution.
As in the past, President Aquino has sent a complement of the highest level of Philippine government officials to this ministerial meeting which is a testimony of how the Philippine Government puts emphasis and importance to the review process and of its high respect and esteem for the OIC and OIC-Peace Committee for Southern Philippines for guiding this process through these eight years. Our delegation is composed of men and women who are equipped and have a deep understanding of the Bangsamoro struggle.
I am, therefore, pleased and honored to introduce to you the distinguished members of the Philippine Delegation: Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Undersecretary Rafael Seguis of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and three Muslim undersecretaries in departments with direct relevance and involvement in the peace process – namely, Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Executive Secretary, Undersecretary Zabedin Azis of the Department of Justice, Undersecretary Yusuf Lorena of my office, the Office of the Presidential Adivse on the Peace Process. Other members of the government delegation are Deputy-Director General Zenonida Brosas of the National Security Council (NSC) and Brigadier General Buenaventura Pascual of the Peace Process office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And we are very pleased indeed that we are joined at this time by the Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Honorable Governor Mujiv Hataman, who is accompanied by Deputy Regional Governor Yusop Jikiri. Of course, everyone knows His Excellency, Ezedin Tago, Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Looking back, the Tripartite Review Process commenced in Jeddah in November, 2007, with a single aim to “review the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MNLF with the view of making its assessment of the progress and the obstacles facing its full implementation and to draw up modalities for a new Joint Monitoring Committee”.
In the course of the eight years of review we have satisfactorily identified issues and obstacles and found common solutions to move forward the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. Truly, our efforts have resulted in many milestones, among which are the “42 consensus points,” consisting of provisions of the agreement which we agreed would be duly incorporated into the proposed amendatory law to the current organic act, Republic Act 9054, which was enacted and ratified in 2001. It must be recalled that Republic Act 9054 is the current law which, pursuant to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, incorporated substantive provisions of the agreement and effectively amended the earlier organic law, Republic Act 6734. With the 42 consensus points, it is now safe to conclude that the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement are now made operative as these consensus points will now be part and parcel of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the new autonomy law now undergoing deliberation in the Philippine Congress, with a view of bestowing the highest level of regional autonomy in Muslim Mindanao, as mandated in the Philippine Constitution.
In addition, we have worked on the terms of reference which would ensure the strengthened partnership between the OIC, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with the approval by all parties of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC), a body designed to monitor the implementation of all agreements achieved under the Tripartite Review Process. The Government of the Philippines remains ready to participate in the operation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee upon its establishment after the completion of the review process which we hope to achieve in this ministerial meeting.
Similarly, we have reached consensus on the issue of “co-management of strategic minerals,” which track of cooperation already exists and is making a lot of headway between the National Government and the Autonomous Regional Government in Muslim Mindanao. In this regard, the Autonomous Regional Government has entered into various agreements with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in manners that support the desire and demand of the MNLF. Furthermore, the Regional Government, pursuant to the power granted by Republic Act 9054, has passed legislation to strengthen the role of the Autonomous Government in Muslim Mindanao in the management of natural resources, including those which may be considered as strategic minerals. Later in our meeting and at the appropriate time, Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman will elaborate on these relevant developments.
Still on the co-management of strategic minerals, the Congress of the Philippines, consistent with the interim agreement adopted by the Tripartite Review Process, has adopted a new and more operational classification of natural resources in the proposed BBL; namely, metallic, non-metallic, and fossil fuels. Sharing in the revenue of all on these between the Autonomous Regional Government and the National Government is also provided, with the increase from 70% to 75% of the share of the autonomous region from government revenues from metallic resources. This will be elucidated further by Atty. Anna Basman, Head of the GPH Legal Team for the BBL.
Hence, the desire of the MNLF to boost revenues in the autonomous region from its natural resources is already being exercised by the current Government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and is further enhanced in the proposed BBL.
As to the convergence of all previous peace agreements and the preservation of their gains, the proposed BBL incorporates and enhances the 42 consensus point which is the foremost product of the Tripartite Review Process. The MNLF is likewise granted decision making rights and participation in the implementation of the BBL, starting with its allotted place in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and membership in the Council of Elders. The MNLF is also strongly encouraged to field candidates for election to various political positions in the new Bangsamoro regional government, once it is set up.
A review is time-bound. A never-ending review means that agreements will never be implemented. It will mean endlessly looking backwards instead of moving forward. Hence, it is our view that it is high time for the Tripartite Review Process – with the government and the Bangsamoro fronts in full and active partnership – to conclude the review and proceed to the implementation of the results of the review. I am confident that the parties – the OIC, the Government, and the MNLF – are ready to take all necessary action: to surmount narrow, rigid interests and enter a new era of collaboration for lasting peace and progress.
The completion of the Tripartite Review Process does not end the engagement among the three of us but it will rather strengthen our partnership. Aside from our domestic and national concerns, this strengthened partnership is now further compelled by the broader context of fast evolving regional Asian – indeed, even international – geopolitics and security concerns. Getting the Mindanao peace process to proceed in synchronicity with these international trends underpins in a major way the timely actions the Tripartite Review Process can and will realize.
The OIC is bending over and exerting extraordinary efforts to make this Tripartite Review Process a way forward, another workable political paradigm for the world’s Ummah in the search for communal harmony and balance, an ideal to which we all also firmly aspire and commit to relentlessly pursue. With the completion of the Tripartite Review Process, Mindanao stands on the threshold to open a new order of peace in a time when the entire global system faces huge, hard challenges, especially in Asia and the Middle East.
Stepping up the level of convergence of the Bangsamoro fronts with the implementation of 42 consensus points of the Tripartite Review Process and the operationalization of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund and the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee will draw forth more enduring, longer-term international support for the cause of Bangsamoro self-determination. We must view our present and immediate actions through the lens of such essentially long view. This convergence will vindicate and validate all the truths and wisdom in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement as complemented and improved by the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, and also therefore do justice to the long struggle of the Bangsamoro.
In sum and at this instance, then, we look forward to reach a conclusion of the review process with our esteemed counterparts in the MNLF, under the wise guidance and firm auspices of the OIC.
As we begin this conference, allow me to acknowledge with gratitude the efforts of previous delegations to the preceding full-fledge sessions of the Tripartite Review Process – in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2007, in Turkey in 2008, in the Philippines in 2009, and again in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2011. I give cognizance, too, to the two meetings between the MNLF and Philippine Government legal panels in Libya and in Indonesia in 2011, and the two Ad Hoc High Level Meetings held in Indonesia in 2011 and 2012.
In closing, let me reiterate that the The Philippine Government is fully committed to an inclusive and comprehensive approach to the quest for a just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao.
This approach towards one Bangsamoro aspiration is now possible under the framework of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Under the Bangsamoro framework, mechanisms to accommodate and enhance MNLF concerns and interests are already in place and the Philippine Government and the MNLF will continue their constructive partnership and engagement.
We firmly wish for this meeting to reach another milestone which enriches our partnership with the MNLF and the OIC.
Thank you and good day.