By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times
SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the chair of the Senate local government committee, on Sunday assured the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other concerned parties that his substitute bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will still undergo several processes and can still be subjected to revisions.
Marcos, who recently sponsored the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) in the Senate, also said that he is ready to explain and justify the amendments he introduced to Malacanang’s version of the BBL to those who have expressed objection on the revised bill.
“I’m confident that if the bill will be discussed thoroughly and be given a chance to clearly explain the amendments I believe that they (MILF) will understand,” Marcos said in a radio interview over DZBB.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in an earlier media interview has expressed dismay over Marcos’ BLBAR saying it took away provisions that have been the product of a 17-year peace negotiation and inputs from for different minds.
Iqbal also likened the BLBAR to a person that has no soul as he appealed to congress to improve the original draft BBL instead of watering it down.
Marcos admitted that he was saddened by the opinion of the MILF official, but he said that he remains optimistic that he can convince MILF that BLBAR is right and it is supportive of the peace process.
“If we see that there were mistakes or shortcomings in the proposed BLBAR, there is still a chance to come up with revisions,” Marcos added.
Marcos said that he believes he would be able to justify the changes he introduced in the draft BBL once the plenary debates start. The Senate is expected to begin interpellation on the BLBAR today (August 17).
Meanwhile, in a related development, Marcos told vice governors of Mindanao that the BLBAR is not just inclusive but beneficial and fair to Moros and non-Moros alike.
During the Mindanao Vice Governors’ Conference held at Cagayan De Oro City, Marcos said that he only did “the right thing to do’’ in crafting the substitute bill.
“I believe we tried very hard to be fair to everyone concerned,” Marcos said reacting to the question about allegations that his substitute bill watered the original proposed measure during a press briefing.
Marcos likewise pointed out that many of the provisions of the bill treated the Bangsamoro government similarly to other local governments in the country, in order to draw them closer to mainstream Filipino society instead of treating them as a separate group.
This principle, Marcos explained, guided the substitute bill’s provisions on the authority of the Bangsamoro government over Lake Lanao, which some critics in social media have tagged as “anti-Moro”.
“What is different in our substitute bill is we just considered what was described either as inland waters or Bangsamoro waters to adhere to the definition of municipal waters. I don’t see why we need to change it,” Marcos noted.
Under the Local Government Code, “municipal waters” include streams, lakes, and tidal waters within the municipality that are not the subject of private ownership and are not within national parks, public forests, timberlands, forest reserves or fishery reserves.
He said, SB 2894 even extended the boundary for marine waters from 15 kilometers up to 22.224 kilometers (12 nautical miles) from the low-water mark of the coasts that are part of the Bangsamoro geographical area.
SB 2894 however assured that that the power plants generating electricity from the waters of Lake Lanao, as well as the transmission facilities connected to the national grid, remained under the supervision of the National Power Corporation.
“Lake Lanao is critical as it supplies 60 percent of all the power in Mindanao. We all know that we are in crisis when it comes to power generation in Mindanao,” Marcos said.
The Senator added that while he tried his best to correct the flaws of the BBL draft in the substitute bill, it could be further improved with additional inputs from his fellow senators during the period of amendment and in the bicameral conference committee, after both Houses of Congress have passed their own version of the measure.
The conference was led by Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Jose Mari Pelaez, the vice president for Mindanao of the Vice Governors League of the Philippines and was attended by 15 vice governors from Mindanao and one delegate from Aurora province, as well as several members of provincial boards.
Aside from Marcos, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat was also one of the guest speakers in the event.