MANILA - The bicameral conference committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law suspended its 3rd session at a hotel in Quezon City late Wednesday night with portions of the bill still to be deliberated on.
This, despite expectations by bicam members they would be able to conclude deliberations and come up a final version of the measure to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We’re 95 percent complete,” said committee co-chair Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Zubiri said the committee still had to “clean up” the language of the portion on the jurisdiction of the Shari’a courts, one of the contentious parts of the bill.
While deliberations on the portion had finally concluded, Zubiri said the text will be added to the bicam level BBL on Thursday.
When it again convenes at the Batasan Pambansa on Thursday, the committee will deliberate on the portion on territorial waters, which Zubiri said touched on technical and constitutional issues.
“Dapat national government may control niyan. Kasi Philippine waters 'yan, within the the territory of the Philippines. But there are also issues over fishing kasi andaming members ng Bangsamoro fishing communities,” he said.
Zubiri said these communities largely depend on livelihood from these bodies of water, which was why they are stating a claim on these areas.
“The Bangsamoro government wants to be able to regulate the waters between the island provinces as being called zones of cooperation with national government.”
He said the discussion on this portion had to be continued the following day.
“Medyo technical 'yan, so hindi talaga namin matapos-tapos, biglaan, pagod na kaming lahat, matutulog muna kami. Bukas hopefully bright and early we are 100 percent, we can iron out our differences to come up with an acceptable solution for proposal to this sections,” Zubiri said.
Zubiri said he and committee co-chairperson Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas would also confer Thursday on the transitory provisions in Article 18 of the BBL.
Zubiri admitted that their discussions on the BBL had sped up after Malacañang ended the deadlock over the territorial plebiscite portion of the law on Wednesday when members of the bicam met with Duterte.
Citing constitutionality, Duterte decided to go with the House version, which mandated province-wide referendums on whether 6 towns in Lanao Del Norte and 39 villages in North Cotabato could join the Bangsamoro region.
“All’s well that ends well. Those we had heated arguments with, nagyakapan na kami. ‘Di personal sakin to. Inutusan lang ako ng Senado na gawin ang tungkulin ko to protect the gains of the peace process of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Zubiri said.
“We shook each other’s hand, we were able to finish the problem. The solution was acceptable to them, so we should move forward.”
Zubiri asked for patience from the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission amid the changes to the BBL draft they initially produced.
'MORE POSITIVE THAN NEGATIVE'
Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairperson Mohagher Iqbal declined to comment on the specific portions of the BBL being changed.
However, he expressed optimism on the bicameral committee’s progress.
“So far, I think it’s more positive rather than negative. We are engaged with Congress, so we continue to engage, and we continue to hope and strive that at the end of the day, a good BBL will finally emerge from this vital conference,” Iqbal said.
“Let’s continue to work together and try to address the issue of the conflict in Mindanao so we can produce a BBL that will finally address the problem in Mindanao.”
Zubiri said the bicam plans to come up with a clean copy of the commitee’s joint version of the BBL for study before sending a report for Duterte’s approval next Wednesday.