DAVAO CITY, December 13, 2019 – The government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have agreed to pursue the implementation of the remaining commitments contained in the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, among others, during the first meeting of the newly-established government-MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee which was presided by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte here Friday.

“At least before I step down, I want to see an enduring peace in Mindanao,” the President told the members of Peace Coordinating Committee in their meeting at the Matina Enclaves.

The meeting was attended by MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari and members of the MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee namely: Atty. Joel Obar, Atty. Yaser Lumbos, Atty. Mohammad Ali Guro, Dr. Udtog Kawit, Atty. Alongan Dimacaling and Atty. Arthur Lim represented by Atty. Ma. Victoria P. Lim-Florido. For the government side, the team was led by Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., who President Duterte named as chair of the six-member team of the government. The other five members include Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, National Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Undersecretary Arthur Tabaquero, Bangsamoro Transition Authority member Nabil Tan, and retired BGen. Buenaventura Pascual.

Several Cabinet members who joined the meeting are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Interior Secretary Eduardo Manahan Año, Solicitor General Jose Calida, while Undersecretary Ernesto Abella represented the Department of Foreign Affairs and Prosecutor Rassendell Rex Gingoyon representing the Justice Department.

Former Executive Secretaries Eduardo Ermita and Ruben Torres, who played a major role during the crafting of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement were also at the meeting to serve as advisers to the government’s coordinating committee. The team was also joined by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

Implementing the Results of the TRP

Based on the results of the TRP of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, only two commitments have yet to be implemented.

These are the establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) and the and the creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC).

The TRP, which was jointly carried out by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Philippine Government and MNLF, was concluded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

Pursuing Federal System of Government 

Both parties have also agreed to realize the vision of federalism.

Both President Duterte and Misuari have vowed to work closely to change the current structure of the government into federal.

President Duterte said he is not giving up on the shift to federalism.

“Help me also convince the Moro members of Congress to work on it fast vis à vis the effort on the federal set up,” the President said as he sought Misuari’s help.

“Our allies in Congress have assured me that they will work on it because that is part of my program. In the [presidential] campaign, I said drugs, corruption, and the federal system. I have to comply,” the President said.

Combatting terrorism in Mindanao

Misuari, for his part, said he will help in the government’s efforts to rid Mindanao from the threats of terror groups, particularly in the island province of Sulu, where Abu-Sayyaf Group is actively operating.

“There is no place for them to go…We can assure the President that the MNLF will fully support the resolution of this problem. Try us on how effective we are,” Misuari vowed.

In recent years, the government has been tapping the help of Misuari to free kidnapped victims that were brought in Sulu.

Galvez said the military and police and MNLF forces on the ground can establish a “close coordination” efforts through the Peace Coordinating Committee to run after the terror groups.

“There will be security coordination with MNLF forces to persuade the Abu-Sayyaf members to return to the mainstream society and to eradicate the problem of terrorism and kidnapping incidents, particularly in Sulu,” he said.

Misuari as government’s Special Economic Envoy in the OIC

Meanwhile, in order to accelerate the implementation of the peace agreements and to develop further the support of the Islamic countries, President Duterte announced the appointment of Misuari as Special Economic Envoy on Islamic Affairs to the OIC.

“Brother Nur has occupied several positions in the past. Considered it as an honor for me to delegate you as special envoy of the government so that you can foster further lasting relationships with the leaders of the Islamic countries,” the President told Misuari.

“Most of the leaders of the OIC are friends of Nur. It’s good that Allah has given you a longer life to see these things because I do not think that there is other Moro personality that could command the respect and trust of the OIC but only you. You are the only one who can bring the case to the OIC and get the results,” PRRD told Misuari.

Misuari, for his part, gladly received the position, saying “we are grateful” to President Duterte.

Both President Duterte and Misuari have met several times this year to discuss ways on how to further improve its partnership towards achieving sustainable peace in Mindanao.

During a meeting in Malacanang last November 11, both sides discussed the creation of the Peace Coordinating Committee between the GPH and the MNLF as a platform to strengthen the peace process in Mindanao.

Ways Forward

Misuari is poised to attend the annual meeting of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States in Burkina Faso in Western Africa on January 21 to 23, 2020.

This developed as the leadership of the OIC is set to visit the Philippines in February 2020.

The involvement of the influential OIC will play a crucial role in pushing forward the implementation of the peace agreements between the government and the Moro fronts. For years, the OIC has been actively involved in the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum to harmonize all the Moro fronts in the Philippines and integrate all the development plans to foster long-lasting and enduring peace in Mindanao.

President Duterte vows to implement all the signed peace agreement with the Moro fronts. The President has earlier emphasized that “no one will be left behind in the peace process and everyone will be given equitable opportunity and be fair for all the people in the Bangsamoro.”###