MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - A bicameral conference on Wednesday approved a bill that grants wider self-rule to the Muslim minority in the south, paving the way for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign it into law.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, renamed Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, is one of the requirements under a 2014 peace agreement between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group.
Duterte, the first president from Mindanao, had certified the measure as urgent.
Senators and congressmen reconciled their versions of the measure in bicameral meetings.
Malacanang said the President hopes to sign the proposed BBL into law before his third State of the Nation Address on July 23.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri jointly presided over the bicameral conference.
Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino, forged the peace agreement with the MILF but failed to get Congress to pass the BBL before he stepped down in 2016.
Congress halted debates on the BBL due to public outrage over the deaths of 44 police commandos in a botched anti-terrorism raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
The operation, which targeted a Malaysian bomb-maker wanted by the US, was overseen by then-suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, Aquino's shooting buddy.
Some provisions in the BBL's earlier versions also faced questions on constitutionality.
Senator Sonny Angara, in a statement, said he believes the reconciled version of the proposed law is constitutional.
"Naniniwala po tayo na ang nilalaman ng BBL na aprubado ng bicam ay naaayon sa Saligang Batas. Ito ang natatanging hakbang para sa wakas ay magkaroon na ng katuparan ang layunin nating maresolba ang mga ‘di pagkakaunawaan nang sa gayon ay umusad ang kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa Bangsamoro region," he said.
Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, thanked lawmakers, the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), and stakeholders "for all the hard work they put into the passage of this bill."
"We hope that this can be the start of a peaceful and progressive future for the Bangsamoro, the people of Mindanao and the Philippines as a whole," he said.
--With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News