M'sia urged to tap the Bangsamoro potential
Published on: Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Kuala Lumpur: The implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in Mindanao is expected to not only bring about an end to decades of conflict in the southern Philippines region, but also an economic boom to the area.Philippines Ambassador to Malaysia Charles C. Jose said the creation of a political entity, BOL, that is set to enjoy greater autonomy than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), would pave the way for foreign investors to unlock the southern region's potential and spur more economic development in the area.

Malaysia is most welcomed to forge closer bilateral relations with the Philippines by penetrating into potential opportunities and growing markets offered in Mindanao's energy sector with the new development, he said.

"Although we had the peace negotiations which led to the creation of ARMM previously, no economic efforts have been implemented following the establishment due to some political divide.

"Now that BOL has been passed by both Houses of Congress, we are hoping that our foreign partners and the international community would help us by investing in Mindanao. Being a close neighbour in the region, of course, we would want Malaysia to play the role especially in the economic front," he told Bernama in an exclusive interview at the embassy, recently.

The BOL, signed by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27, which is also better known by its previous name, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), is the culmination of decades-long peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the rebel groups in Mindanao.

The new law covers the existing ARMM areas of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangay (villages) in North Cotabato pending a plebiscite before the end of the year.

The law's passage will cap off 22 years of negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government.

Jose further explained as peace and stability were crucial to encourage more investments, an immediate decommissioning of armed wings in Mindanao after the ratification of the BOL would very much help to restore peace in the affected area.

"With the signing and the passing of BOL, this will also facilitate the decommissioning of armed wings in Mindanao, one of the basic premises of the law.

"We have promised them greater autonomy (through the law), therefore, in return, they will give up their aspirations for a separate and independent homeland and they will lay down their arms.

Hopefully, there will be no fighting and peace can be restored to allow more investments," he said.

He also noted that redeveloping Mindanao was part of Duterte's infrastructure programmes in building

connectivity between the east and west parts of the region.

Recently, online international news have quoted MILF Chief Peace Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying that the decommissioning process of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (Biaf) has already taken place.

Elaborating further on BOL, Jose said the Philippine government was grateful to have had Malaysia as the facilitator of the political negotiations with the MILF since 2001.

He added the continuous role played by Malaysia, including being part of International Monitoring Team (IMT) in monitoring the ceasefire commitment between the conflicting parties was also lauded and acknowledged.

"In any political negotiations, the role of the third-party facilitator is very challenging especially when negotiating parties sometimes failed to meet halfway but the role must be continued in keeping the negotiations going.

"In this regard, we truly appreciate and acknowledge Malaysia's participation as the biggest contingent in this IMT, and in the activities of the ceasefire mechanisms that have helped to keep the negotiations going by maintaining the agreed ceasefire and keeping the conflicted areas peaceful during negotiations," he said.

Apart from Malaysia, the IMT composed of contingents coming from Brunei, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan and Norway.

In 2014, the Philippine government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was brokered by Malaysia.

Signed in the presence of former Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and former Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at Malacanang Palace, the peace pact also called for the removal of cultural inequities through the agreed modalities aimed at equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.

Supplementary to the CAB were the various agreements, guidelines, terms of reference and joint statements duly signed and acknowledged by the Philippine government and MILF in the course of the negotiations beginning in 1997. – Bernama


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