A Turkish member of the body overseeing the Philippines' peace process warned that Daesh will grow more active in the region if the process stalls, telling Anadolu Agency that President Rodrigo Duterte is eager to bring the negotiations to fruition.
Huseyin Oruc, the vice president of Turkey's IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, told Anadolu Agency in an interview late last week that Daesh sympathizers seeking to be active in Mindanao, the Philippines' second-largest island, are finding recruiting easy "due to the slowdown in the peace process."
"If the process is delayed, probably there will be more conflicts not only between Daesh and the government but also between Daesh and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," Oruc said, adding that the government and the second group are very aware of this.
He said the only solution is the government and the MILF as well as other stakeholders accelerating the peace process and concluding it, otherwise Daesh will be able to easily drag it out.
However, Oruc believes Duterte will work successfully through this tough process as he has enough sway within the government as well as good relations with both the MNLF and the MILF.
Oruc said Duterte has stated many times that he knows the source of the problem, as he was the mayor of Davao City, the largest city in the predominantly Muslim southern Mindanao region. Duterte's election marked the first time someone from that city has become president.
Oruc said that last week Duterte filled the 21 seats on the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), with 11 of its members coming from the MILF and 10 from the government, including government nominees from the MNLF side.
Bangsamoro is the name of a proposed autonomous region within the Philippines.
"They will reshape the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of this month, February [...] This will create a new Bangsamoro autonomous region, the Bangsamoro government," Oruc said.
- Roadmap ahead
The BTC was first formed in 2013 with 15 members to prepare the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), meant to serve as the basis of the future Bangsamoro political entity in accordance with the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed in 2012 between the government and the MILF.
Stating that the draft law will be presented to Duterte at the end of May and he will talk with BTC and the MILF, Oruc said that the Senate and House of Representatives need to confirm this law to create a new autonomous region.
"I think in the coming days, the process will be accelerated," he said, stressing that there are some grey areas, including federalism.
"When the Philippines is a federal republic, Bangsamoro will also be one of the federal states in the region and the problem will be solved. But federalism is a very long-term project of the president and won't be easy," he said.
"But when we are talking with the government side, they said both tracks will continue together, the BBL and federalism [as] they will not except any of them and they will continue," Oruc added.
He also said that another challenging point for the peace process is that "from the Congress side, from the Duterte administration, they are thinking [that] some points in the previous BBL are unconstitutional, but the MILF is arguing that there are no unconstitutional points."
"Maybe they will discuss this point a bit more. I don't think it will take a long time," Oruc added.
According to the government roadmap, as Oruc said, the Senate and House of Representatives would vote on the BBL to make it a legal document by January 2018. Then there would be a referendum in the region to ratify the law.
After the ratification, there would be a Bangsamoro transitional government between 2019 and 2022. In 2022, there would be an election and the Bangsamoro parliament would be elected by the people of Bangsamoro. The process would be completed that year.
"This is the roadmap. Actually, it will be discussed by the sides. But I think there are many things inside the plan they need to discuss and decide on," he added.
Stating that he has met with people, community leaders, and various stakeholders in the Philippines, he underlined, "All of them are saying that Duterte has enough power in the Congress. If he wants it, passing the BBL won't be a problem."
"And I believe the same. If Duterte agrees in the BBL, it will easily pass," he said, adding, "everybody needs peace in this region, [...] We all need to be optimistic."
Oruc also claimed that almost all the sides are more optimistic than they were before, as they have learned a great deal from the previous unsuccessful peace process and know the potential pitfalls.
Saying that the president is in a strong position to conclude the process, he stated, "I don't believe any politician can water down the peace process."
Ilker Girit contributed to this article from Istanbul. -