ORGANIZATION of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen “is eager to visit the Philippines.”
Director El Habib Bourane for Muslim Minorities under the OIC’s Department of Political Affairs emphasized this in meeting with officials of the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Bourane led the OIC advance team to Manila to pave the way for Al-Othaimeen’s visit.
“We are not outsiders to the issues of the southern Philippines. We are your partner and you can rely on us. When we go back, we will brief the OIC Secretary General, who is eager to visit the Philippines,” he said, in a statement sent to journalists by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
Led by Bourane the team was also with Datuk Ibrahim Abdullah, special envoy of the OIC Secretary General for Peace Process in Southern Philippines; and Dr. Hassan Abedin, adviser and former director for Muslim Minorities.
They concluded their three-day visit Wednesday, January 29, in the county, particularly in Mindanao, on a high note, following series of successful meetings with the Philippine government, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as well as with the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).
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Their visit was aimed to facilitate the possible high-level visit of the Al-Othaimeen in the country sometime this year.
The OIC has been playing a key role in assisting the government and the different Moro fronts since 1970s to find common ground to resolve the Bangsamoro armed struggle in Mindanao.
For years, the Islamic bloc through the Peace Committee on Southern Philippines (PCSP) mediated two peace pacts between the government and the MNLF – The 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. Malaysia, an OIC’s member state, also successfully brokered the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 with the MILF.
Series of meetings
Early this week, the delegation met with Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, and officials from key government agencies, namely: Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA).
The meeting provided the OIC delegation of the current efforts of the Duterte administration in implementing all the signed peace agreements between the government and the two Moro fronts.
Several milestones have been achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process under Duterte administration. In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte led the campaign for the successful ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM). The new parliamentary-form region enjoys greater fiscal autonomy, and justice system to name a few, which truly reflect the aspirations of the Moro people for a genuine autonomy.
The Duterte administration also up the ante in re-engaging the leaderships of the MNLF through the series of meetings between the leaders of the front and the President which culminated to the establishment of coordinating committees to engage the MNLF groups.
Recently, President Duterte signed the appointment paper of Misuari as the Special Envoy of the President to the OIC in a bid to sustain the gains of GPH-MNLF peace process.
OIC met with MNLF, MILF
Following their meeting with the Philippine government, the delegation flew to the southern cities of Davao and Cotabato to meet with the leaders of the MNLF and MILF.
The leaderships of the MNLF Founding Chairman Nur Misuari and Yusop Jikiri uphold the role of the OIC as a mediator of the Bangsamoro peace process.
Related story: OIC Team Arriving in Manila
Based on the results of the TRP, two commitments have yet to be complied with on the side of the Philippine government.
These include the establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) and the creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC).
In Cotabato City, the delegation was briefed on the current developments of the BARMM during their meeting with the Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al-Hajj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim, who is also the chairman of the MILF. They were also given the chance to meet with the members of the BARMM cabinet and the Bangsamoro Parliament.
Milestones in the Bangsamoro peace process
As representative of the OIC, Bourane expressed his gratitude to the Philippine government and the Moro fronts for their successful visit, and for giving the OIC a comprehensive understanding of the Bangsamoro context.
He said the establishment of the BARMM is a very positive step forward in the peace process, and instrumental in achieving peace and security in the Southern Philippines.
“President Duterte has taken a huge significant step and the OIC has recognized that,” Abedin, who worked with three OIC secretary generals in the past, said.
“Our heartfelt gratitude to President Duterte for demonstrating a very strong political will in order to move forward for the establishment of BARMM. We know the biases and prejudice in the country but despite all these, the President acted very decisively in order to move forward,” Ebrahim said on behalf of the Bangsamoro Cabinet, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the MILF, and the Bangsamoro people.
For his part, Galvez said the OIC has been a “big brother to the Philippines, especially during the most crucial stages of its peace journey. For this, we shall forever be grateful.”
He said the President gave him the marching order to implement the remaining commitments of the TRP.
“The Philippine government through the guidance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, we are committed to bringing substantial results within the first quarter of this year to implement the remaining commitments, particularly the establishments of the BDAF and TIMC,” he said.
Galvez said the government is commending the efforts of the OIC to harmonize the Moro fronts in Mindanao. (OPAPP)