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An assessment of the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement, signed on September 2, 1996 by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), was the issue of choice during the second session of the Islam and Democracy Media Forum held at the Club Filipino in San Juan City last August 31, 2007. The forum, organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, is held monthly to bring Muslim issues closer to the media.
The second session’s study, conducted and presented by Ms. Amina Rasul, lead convenor of PCID, focused on what happened after the signing of the landmark peace agreement. Eleven years after, she declared, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), remains underdeveloped and “poorest of the poor” despite claims by the government that it poured in almost P68 billion to the region from 1996 to 2000, along with reports of billions worth of overseas development assistance (ODA) funds from the international donor community. This begged the question as to where the funds really went, and what went wrong with the implementation of the peace agreement, which was signed with the intention of bringing lasting peace and development in the ARMM region; the peace agreement begs to be reassessed in light of the current on-going peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“BROKEN PEACE: Assessing the Implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement” brought to the fore issues of disparities in interpretation of the Peace Agreement between the government and MNLF, and debated the concept of “autonomy”; Ms. Rasul argued that while autonomy for the Muslim region is stipulated on paper within the agreement, in reality, little fiscal power and the appointment of ARMM officials by Malacanang has meant that there is very little autonomy in practice. The ARMM also continues to receive very little in the national budget allocation, especially in comparison with other regions of the country, which may very well contribute towards underdevelopment in the region. No matter how good the agreement may seem on paper, however, without proper enforcement and implementation, the same problems would continue and bar the road towards peace and development in Mindanao.
Reactors in the forum included Rep. Yusop Jikiri, Congressman from the 1st District of Sulu, Rep. Mujiv Hataman from Anak Mindanao, Hon. Ismael Abubakar, Jr., former Speaker of the ARMM regional Legislative Assembly, and Dr. Clarita Carlos from the University of the Philippines.