The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was finally approved by the House of Representatives ad hoc committee yesterday. This, after years of waiting and hoping for a day that most people thought would never come. This is another milestone in the continuing peace dialogue between MILF and the Government.
“That it was unanimously approved and is now for discussion in the plenary of the Congress is indeed a step forward. It is a stride towards achieving peace and development not only for the Moro people but for all the people of Mindanao and the whole Philippines. However, we know that this is just the beginning of another story, another path to unfold and another test to pass in the name of peace.” Ms. Marilou R. Llavan, PMPI Co-Convenor for Visayas.
“We have mixed feelings.” said Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI. “We are pleased because BBL now explicitly recognizes the Indigenous People’s Rights Act in the Bangsamoro Basic Law as enshrined in Article VIII Section 5 of the document and that there are several provisions in the law that guarantee inclusion and participation of the indigenous peoples and also women in governance. On the one hand we are uneasy, because in Article XII section 10 still opens up the preferential rights over exploration, development and utilization of natural resources to just any bonafide inhabitants of the Bangsamoro Autonomous region. We still maintain that the clause should give teeth to the preferential right of the Bangsamoro people by including clause that would ensure that the original inhabitants and their kin will not be marginalized by rich and strong mining corporations both local and international.”
Likewise, it is not clear how will the Bangsamoro government can help provide check and balance in the area of management and utilization of natural resources specially pertaining to the strategic minerals (uranium, petroleum, other fossil fuels, mineral oils and all other potential sources of energy) if they will only be consulted by the National Government as stated in Article XII, Section 8.
“We hope that the provision on the consultation between the Bangsamoro and the National government regarding strategic minerals will not be left vague.” Primo Morillo, Anti-Mining Advocacy Officer of PMPI said. “As we understand that the Philippine Constitution says that the state has sole ownership of these mineral resources, we are worried that with the current neo-liberal framework of the Mining Act of 1995 will not be helpful for the sustainable development of the Bangsamoro” Morillo further explains.
For PMPI, these are just some of the issues that the current BBL have to address still. And although the current BBL may not be fully what many groups and lobbyists would like it to be, PMPI is thankful that BBL will see the light in Congress plenary and that peace groups will have another chance to further lobby for enhancements. This will be another difficult and demanding work. But there is no other way.
“We will continue to engage the Bangsamoro even after the passage of the BBL to ensure that the spirit of the law, to serve the common good especially of the Bangsamoro people can be fully realized,” stated Mr Roldan Gonzales, Chairperson of PMPI Co-Convenors.
Official Statement released on May 21, 2015.