PH, foreign chambers push Bangsamoro creation

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 15 2014 09:36 AM | Updated as of Feb 15 2014 05:39 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign and local business groups are keenly anticipating the formation of the autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao that is expected to lead to stability and make the region conducive to investments.

Members of the Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine business groups met with leaders of the House of Representatives on Thursday and discussed at length various pending socio-economic legislation.

John Forbes, senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce, said the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law now being drafted would send a signal that Mindanao is a secure area for business.

“We’re talking about an area that has been deprived for what, 40 years? There are companies there now that are ready to expand if the Bangsamoro peace agreement succeeds,” Forbes told The STAR.

He said the large labor force in the region makes it ideal for light manufacturing industries and agriculture.

Forbes also cited the potential for oil and gas in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission is aiming to submit the draft law anytime between March and May. Senate and House leaders said they aim to pass the proposed law within the year so it could be subjected to a plebiscite in certain areas in Mindanao in 2015.

Calixto Chikiamco, president of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, said the draft law to be submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission should be swiftly passed in order to complete the comprehensive peace agreement and pave the way for peace and prosperity in the region.

Congressmen also supported the early passage of the Bangsamoro Law.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento and Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City vowed to support the early passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Law.

Sarmiento said he expects the swift approval of the bill that would govern the envisioned Bangsamoro region “because no less than President Aquino has given his personal guarantee that this would be endorsed to Congress as an urgent measure.”

“The majority of us will definitely support the swift and hassle-free passage of the measure because we are all excited to see the next chapter of the peace process, which should lead to the economic development of Mindanao. We all want the peace process to succeed this time,” he said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles has said that President Aquino wants the final draft of the proposed basic law to be finished and submitted to him by March 31.

Deles said the President wanted the draft immediately submitted to Congress.

Aquino would certify it as an urgent legislative measure, she said.

The incumbent leadership of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), headed by Gov. Mujiv Hataman, has expressed support for the planned Bangsamoro entity.

Treñas said he and his colleagues from Western Visayas would support the swift passage of the framework law for the new autonomous region.

“So long as it would not prejudice our national interest, we will definitely support it all the way,” he said.

Treñas said it would be best for Congress to simply adopt the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law since this would be a product of consensus between the panels representing the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The proposed law will be crafted on the basis of the consensus between the parties involved in the peace negotiations so I think that altering its provisions might not be what the negotiating panels would want, unless of course it involves certain issues on constitutional infirmity,” he said.

Treñas admitted that some Mindanao congressmen have some reservations on the proposed Bangsamoro entity.

“But it would be for the best if everyone would give the peace process a chance to succeed,” he stressed.

Some local officials, particularly in Zamboanga City, also expressed reservations over the proposed Bangsamoro region. – With Jess Diaz, John Unson, Gerry Lee Gorit