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Source: Manila Bulletin

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have finally agreed on a final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), averting a collapse of the peace agreement signed last March.

The final draft may be submitted to President Aquino within the week after both parties reportedly reached a consensus on the measure.

The peace agreement with the MILF was on the brink of collapse after the secessionist group accused the government legal team of changing 70 percent of the draft BBL.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, said early this month that about 70 percent of the nearly 100-page draft Bangsamoro law was either deleted or revised by Aquino’s lawyers, who reviewed the document for two months after it was submitted in late April for vetting.

But Malacañang’s intervention prompted the government and MILF panels to sit down and threshed out some issues. After the talks ended, both committed to include the “resolutions” in the final draft.

“After a series of productive meetings involving the GPH (Government of the Philippines) and MILF Peace Panels, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process, the Office of the Executive Secretary, and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, we have concluded discussions on the various issues involving the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) originally drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and submitted to the President last April,” a joint statement read.

“The parties have agreed that the resolutions arrived at by both parties will be incorporated into the final draft Basic Bangsamoro Law that will be prepared and submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino III,” it added.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the parties remain committed to submit the draft BBL to the President within the week.

Earlier, the two panels agreed to complete the draft BBL that will be acceptable to both sides by August 18.

Once the President reviews and approves the measure, he is expected to certify it as urgent for its immediate approval in Congress.

President Aquino had earlier sent Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to join the talks between the government and the MILF peace panels on the draft BBL in Davao and help iron out the differences, according to a source. Ochoa reportedly went to Davao City twice to meet with the concerned parties involved in drafting the measure.

Malacañang had earlier said they intend to stick to the August timetable on the submission of draft Bangsamoro basic measure to Congress after missing the original target last month. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said achieving the August target would help ensure the passage of the BBL before the end of the year.

The BBL will be the legal document that will implement the peace agreement forged by the government and the MILF last March.

The proposed legislation was supposed to be submitted at the opening of Congress last month but was pushed back due to a reported disagreement on certain provisions. The problem reportedly stemmed from concerns on constitutionality and compliance with the peace agreement.

The MILF reportedly complained about the revisions recommended by the President’s legal team on the draft BBL, saying these have diluted the original proposal drafted by Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Based on the government timetable, Congress must pass the BBL by December, after which a plebiscite will be held in areas of the envisioned Bangsamoro territory by early 2015. After the plebiscite, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be installed as interim government until the new officials are elected in 2016.

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