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Peace pact sealed by March

THE government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aim to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro not later than March this year, an official said Monday.

The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and to ensure its territorial composition is achieved the government will be looking at the “flexibilities” in the modality of the plebiscite that both panels plan to hold in 2015.

“The Constitution requires a plebiscite. That was a hard fact that we had to swallow,” chief government negotiator Miriam Ferrer said.

“We are looking at flexibilities in the modality of the plebiscite, that instead of voting per province, we can do it at a smaller scale, perhaps at the municipal level.”

Ferrer noted how six municipalities in Lanao del Norte had previously voted for inclusion in the ARMM, but failed to do so because the province as a whole did not get the required number of votes.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said the government must carefully study the “Annex on Normalization,” the last of the four documents that make up the Framework Agreement that was signed by the government’s peace negotiators and the MILF.

He said the constitutional issue involved the territory and subdivision of the country.

“You cannot just make a judgment on that until you have seen and read the whole text of the agreement,” Enrile said.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV cited the need to make the Bangsamoro Basic Law as inclusive as possible following the clashes in Mindanao between the military and those critical of the accord signed by the government and the MILF.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III said his panel would work for the eventual passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, while Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed to make that law “universally fair, practical and constitutionally consistent.”

The members of the government’s peace panel arrived in Manila Sunday night from Kuala Lumpur after signing the peace deal with the MILF on Saturday.

The Australian government on Monday praised the signing of the agreement and announced a $6-million grant to support it.

“We recognize the work that needs to be done in Mindanao,” Australian Ambassador to Manila Bill Tweddell said.

The Japanese Embassy in Manila welcomed the agreement and said it firmly believed peace in Mindanao would be achieved.

“It is a great pleasure that Japan contributed to the progress  of the peace process,” the embassy said.

Under the framework agreement, the Bangsamoro will have for its core territory the present composition of the ARMM.

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