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Media roundtable discussion on BBL hosted by UPV

The University of the Philippines Visayas hosted the 4th Media Round Table Discussion on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on December 4, 2015 at the UP Visayas auditorium, Iloilo City. The event was convened by MindaNews and the Philippine Information Agency in partnership with the Asia Foundation, the Australian Government, B-Bangon Project and the Conciliation Resources-European Union.     

Media round table discussions on the proposed BBL has been going around nationwide in order to help public awareness and understanding on the issue related to the peace process involving the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).     

Dr. Crispino A. Saclauso, gave words of welcome on behalf of UPV Chancellor Dr. Rommel Espinosa, pointing out that as a premier public university, UPV endeavors to serve as an anchor in intellectual discussions on issues of national importance. Efren F. Balbuena, the Regional Director of the Philippine-Information Agency XI and Cluster Head for South-Central and Western Mindanao Cluster, also gave his remarks. He emphasized that one of the goals of the day’s discussion was to know the Ilonggos’ perspective towards the Muslims, the Maranaos, or the Tausogs, whether they be positive or negative. 

Ms. Carolyn O. Arguillas, Editor-in-Chief of the MindaNews, gave a brief presentation about Mindanao to put the issue in its proper context. She said that Mindanao is composed of 27 provinces, 33 cities and 6 regions. In the year 1911 onwards, it was referred to as the “Land of Promise” but asked “for whom?”

According to her, it appeared that Mindanao promised a better future for residents of Luzon and Visayas through favorable land laws at the expense of the Moros and iIndigenous people who were marginalized and minoritized because of the arrival of Spanish and American colonizers as well as the settlers from the other parts of the country starting 1913. 

“Today, when we mention Mindanao, the images that the word evokes are war, kidnappings, poverty, bombings, guns, illegal logging, mining, disasters, massacres, etc.,” she pointed out. 

In addition she also said Mindanao is home to more than half of the country’s armed forces, home to all Moro liberation fronts, and home to the largest concentration of communist guerillas in the country. But Mindanao also has the richest natural resources in the country with its vast agricultural lands and mineral resources such as gold, silver, nickel, copper, uranium. It is multi-cultural, has a glorious pre-colonial past (Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, Pat a Pangaampong in Lanao), it is where the IP’s have their own governance systems, is home to so many peace-building initiatives (NGO’s and POs, church, media, academe, youth, business, etc.), and is paradise for its 21.9 million residents. 

Arguillas also presented some basic information and issues about the Basic Bangsamoro Law such as: the several peace processes between Philippine Government and the NDF, the MNLF and the MILF, the proposed Bangsamoro core territory, the Annex on Normalization, the Decommissioning, the timeline of the supposed passage of the BBL and its current status in Congress. 

The event proceeded with the statements on the BBL by Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Chair of the Philippine Government Peace Panel. She pointed out that the signing of the agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF was “one positive example of how to deal with a conflict, that is, to deal with it through political negotiations, through peaceful means and democratic processes” which is very evident with the comprehensive agreement of the Bangsamoro. 

Mr. Mohagher Iqbala, Chair of the MILF Peace Panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) gave a brief background of the peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the MILF which has been ongoing for the last 17 years. 

In her closing remarks, Dr. Rosalie Arcala Hall, UPV faculty member of the Division of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences reminded the participants that the task of the forum was to correct the misconceptions about the Muslims or Moros and the average Filipino’s images of Mindanao.

By: Alexander Porras

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