MILF, Govt agree to 70-30 wealth deal

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — The government has agreed to have a 30-70 sharing scheme with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the wealth of the envisioned Bangsamoro homeland.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the scheme in favor of the MILF will ensure that the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is able to grow and develop. BJE will comprise the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and neighboring areas that will be jointly ascertained by the administration and the MILF.

“There is already an agreement within the Cabinet on the issue of wealth sharing. So it’s 70-30 in favor of the MILF,” Ermita said.

But the Palace official clarified that the draft agreement on territory approved by the Cabinet Tuesday still has to be fine-tuned before government negotiators proceed to Kuala Lumpur for a two-day executive session with the MILF on Feb. 18.

“There were some points that the Cabinet rejected,” Ermita said. He did not elaborate. A Cabinet official present during the Tuesday meeting said the President has agreed that the term “subject to constitutional processes” be deleted from the draft agreement.

The clause referring to the 1987 Constitution was considered the “walk-away provision” that led to the aborted 15th exploratory talks in Malaysia in December.

But the source said that the members of Cabinet security cluster insisted that in the terms of reference, the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement should be included.

“We had to come up with a way to accommodate the MILF demand that they don’t want the phrase ‘subject to constitutional processes’ included in the agreement because they consider themselves as rebels and therefore not covered by the Constitution,” the official said.

“But in putting the 1996 MNLF accord and the Tripoli agreement in the terms of reference, that is still saying that the implementation would still have to undergo constitutional processes because the two previous agreements clearly point to that. So we achieve what we want without having to put it in the text,” the source added.

Ermita refused to elaborate on the consensus of the Cabinet on the issue of ancestral domain, but admitted that a “caveat” has to be in place.

“There should be that caveat. There should be that condition that will ensure our Constitution is respected,” Ermita said.

President Arroyo has ordered the government’s negotiating panel to present the new agreement on territory to the Cabinet again before talking to the Malaysian facilitators.

The government and the MILF are working on a peace agreement to end the group’s fight for a separate nation, but the two sides are also divided over the size of the MILF’s autonomous territory.

According to chief government negotiator Rodolfo Garcia, the MILF rejected the government’s decision to leave out the aspect of governance in the draft agreement.

“Before, we omitted governance but now we will include this—in general principle—along with the three other components of [the MILF’s] ancestral domain of concept, territory, and resources.”

Garcia also confirmed that a two-day executive session was held in Kuala Lumpur from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, and which the MILF had attended.

“The signing of the ancestral domain agreement is already assured, and it is just a matter of timing. We just have to clear this forthcoming executive session, and the signing will be the most natural thing to expect,” he said.

The government wants to forge the peace agreement with the MILF before the international monitoring team leaves the country to ensure that all negotiations take place while the Malaysia-led observers are still in Mindanao.

The observers are there to help enforce the ceasefire agreement between the Moro rebels and government troops.