‘Bangsamoro’ Backed

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Monday lauded the joint framework agreement reached by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), calling it a "milestone in our search for peace and development in Mindanao."

He joined leaders of the business community and civil society in Mindanao in expressing full support for draft framework peace agreement.

Likewise, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad welcomed the framework agreement to create a new political entity in Mindanao to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), saying it's a step toward achieving peace.

"With this framework, which is within the bounds of the Constitution, we should all be optimistic that the conflict that has affected thousands of Filipinos, Muslims and Christians alike, is nearing its end," Binay said.

The agreement, Binay said, acknowledges the struggle of the Moros for respect and recognition and extends to them their rightful place in nation building as Filipinos.

Bronx Hebrona, regional governor for Southwestern Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said Mindanao traders were optimistic that the forging of a GPH-MILF framework agreement in Malaysia would eventually lead to a permanent peace agreement.

He added that the forging of a permanent peace agreement would inevitably impact not only the business climate but also the quality of life of all the people in Mindanao.

"It is very heartening that prospects for a final peace agreement are getting brighter. An agreement finally looks closer at hand. I am very confident that the MILF and the GPH will earnestly and sincerely rise above the current realities and challenges to finally attain lasting peace in Mindanao," Hebrona said in a statement.

"The peace dividend that will ensue will undoubtedly positively impact not only the business climate but eventually the quality of life of all Mindanaons. We, in the business sector in Mindanao, trust that our brothers in the MILF and the administration of PNoy will pursue peace relentlessly until a final agreement is signed," he added.

Jumoad said stressed that the basis of the agreement should be the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

"Whatever is agreed must be submitted to the people for ratification," said Jumoad.

This, he said, is the reason people should be vigilant.

"We have to be vigilant and the same time guide the people... in the working of the agreement that they must accept the consequence of voting yes and voting no... so there must be total education of in terms of the implication of the agreement that they may entered into," Jumoad said.

The Basilan prelate also hopes that there will be respect for religion in this Bangsamoro entity.

PCCI Vice President for Mindanao Ricardo Juliano echoed Hebrona's observation, saying that a successful peace agreement would benefit "not only Mindanao but the entire country as well."

"We are fully supporting the peace process," Juliano said. "We have high hopes for this administration."

"The signing of a GPH-MILF peace accord is an act of humility and should usher in graciousness and agreements among people on the ground," said EJ Matela, executive director of the Mindanao Land Foundation, Inc. (MinLand), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Kidapawan City.

"Thoughts of real peace, justice and prosperity thus become more real and attainable. Our prayers and thanks to our leaders and all the people who are working hard to make this magnanimous act possible," Matela, who is also Minland Foundation past director for post conflict and rural services, added.

Aveen Acuna-Gulo, an official of the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) that is handling an European Union-funded project for Indigenous Peoples in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the time was ripe for the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

"I see that there has been no environment such as this current one that favors a signing; everything is positive," Acuna-Gulo said.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Y. Emano said, "Mindanao road map for peace and development is moving."

Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno said "peace and development is everybody's concern to all Mindanao people"

Ranking religious leaders in Mindanao also welcome the new development.

Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian priest and well-known Mindanao peace advocate based in Basilan, said Mindanao residents who have been following the peace negotiations between the government and MILF panels, were harboring "high expectations that finally a peace accord can be reached and presented to the people"

Calvo is the lead convenor of the Mindanao Peaceweavers, a civil society organization that monitors the ceasefire agreement between government and MILF forces in Mindanao.

While almost all sectors support the development, Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. said time is running out for Congress to come up with a law that would pave the way for the creation of the "Bangsamoro" that seeks to end the decades-long armed struggle in the southern Philippines.

Belmonte said that due to "very limited time," Congress may not be able to pass a law, which provides the creation of the new political entity as indicated in the preliminary accord reached by the Aquino government and the MILF.

"Admittedly, time is very limited. Time is now limited to a greater degree compared with the first and second session," he said in an ambush interview. -with reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Mike U. Crismundo, Charissa M. Luci, and Ali G. Macabalang

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