JOLO, Sulu – Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus G. Dureza urged officials here to rally behind the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is being pushed by the Duterte administration.
“Let’s give this (BBL) a chance to make it work,” he told a gathering of local officials inside the municipal hall of Jolo on Wednesday.
Dureza, who arrived here ahead of the Senate hearing on the BBL on Thursday, emphasized the “new BBL now is an improvement of the old BBL.”
He was referring to the previous BBL which failed to pass congressional scrutiny due to issues in the Constitution.
The Presidential Adviser said his presence in this island province is to ensure that the local leaders and public will be clarified on the content of the BBL.
“Jolo is the model place. What Jolo will feel will resonate to other municipalities in Sulu,” he said, adding “We would like to hear from you if there are doubts on the BBL.”
“We are here to listen,” he said.
According to him, it is vital for the residents in the Autonomous Region to support the creation of the new Bangsamoro government. “Even if we sign an agreement and Congress pass the law, but if there’s no support from the people, nothing will happen,” he said.
“It should be acceptable to the people in order to address the historical injustices and give the Moros their right to self-determination,” he pointed out.
He said in order to achieve it, the current efforts of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is to simultaneously implement both works in the peace process and development.
Undersecretary Nabil Tan, the deputy presidential adviser on the peace process, concurred Dureza’s statement, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte expanded the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) from 15 to 21 to ensure that the BBL is inclusive.
The BTC’s primary job is to draft the BBL as part of the implementation process of the signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.
“The BTC focused to correct the unconstitutional issues of the past BBL,” Tan, who is a native of Sulu, said.
Earlier, framers of the current 1987 Constitution have stated that the new version of the BBL has no constitutional infirmities during congressional hearings.
Tan said the passage of the BBL is crucial for the normalization track of the peace agreement so it can be fully implemented, such as the decommissioning of the MILF’s combatants.
BTC commissioner Jose Lorena said people of Sulu will greatly benefit in the BBL.
“We are hit by a calamity of conflict. A man-made calamity. An artificial calamity that only men can solve. We should move forward,” he said referring to the objective of the BBL in addressing the underlying factors of the conflict besetting Sulu and the ARMM.
As such, Lorena said the BBL gives the local government rights to control over their municipal waters.
At present, the municipal government has no direct control over the 15-kilometer municipal water but only beneficial rights.
Lorena said the BBL does not only seek to grant the local government a power to control over their waters but also has created another 7.2-kilometer buffer to the national waters.
“The idea is that (industrial-scale) commercial fishing vessels can’t encroach to our waters,” he said.
In addition, the BBL will also create Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf.
“The idea here is for us (the people) to have a participation in the management of the waters that will benefit the small fisherfolks,” he said.
Abdel-Razi Amin, vice mayor of Jolo, expressed his gratitude for “the opportunity to learn about the BBL.”
Both houses of Congress are simultaneously conducting public hearings on the BBL.
Congress targets to pass the BBL by March. ###