26 February 2016

Opening remarks of TPMT Chair Alistair MacDonald
on the occasion of the launch of the 3rd TPMT Public Report
Good morning, thank you for joining us – it’s always good to see some old friends.
Let me introduce myself and the other members of the TPMT
- and recall that our mandate is to report on the progress in the implementation of
the agreements signed between the parties
- our previous public reports were issued in February of 2014 and 2015, and our
ToR require us to do so on an annual basis.
As we had said last year, ending decades of violent conflict cannot be accomplished
overnight, and the efforts of all who have been working for peace deserve to be
acknowledged. We hope therefore that our report will serve to recall the distance that
has already been travelled, the successes achieved and the challenges encountered
along the way, while acknowledging the work that remains to be done.
It hardly needs to be said that this past year has been a difficult one :
- the tragic events at Mamasapano cast a dark shadow over the peace process
throughout the year, impacted negatively on public and political attitudes towards
the process, and significantly delayed (and coloured) Congressional deliberations
on the BBL;
- in that climate, this Congress was not able to complete its work on the BBL, so the
torch of peace will have to be taken up by the next Administration and Congress,
from July
- and even if more progress had been made in Congress, the substitute bills
produced by the House and Senate committees were in a number of respects noncompliant with the CAB – this is an issue which will need to be taken up by the
next Congress, when it carries forward its responsibilituy of legislating for the
implementation of the CAB.
At the same time, there has of course been significant progress in a number of areas
during this past twelve months :
- discussions in Congress, even if not completed during this administration, allowed
all stakeholders to have their say, ventilated all the issues, and can provide a solid
foundation on which the next Congress can build:
- the first, ceremonial, stage of decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces on
16 June underlined the MILF’s determination to fully comply with its
commitments under the CAB;
- there were also significant if less visible developments in other aspects of
normalisation, in preparing support for former combatants and their communities,
in strengthening the footprint of the IDB, in initial preparations for acting against
PAGs, and in the timely submission of the report of the TJRC last December (I
might note also that the early publication of that report will be invaluable);
- there were also many technical difficulties and challenges arising throughout the
year in implementing aspects of the CAB, for example in relation to support for



the 145 former combatants decommissioned in June, in establishing the
normalisation trust fund foreseen in the CAB, in deploying the JPSTs which
would give a potent example of AFP-PNP-MILF cooperation in supporting peace
and order, or in determining the parameters for amnesty;
nevertheless, the ceasefire mechanisms continued to work smoothly throughout
the rest of the year, notwithstanding the fact that these mechanisms had been
ignored and put at risk in Mamasapano;
efforts to build a greater inclusivity continued, both between the MILF and the
different groups within the MNLF, and with many of the Sultanates;
and there was a significant upwelling of both domestic and international support
for the peace process, for example through the work of the Citizens’ Peace
Council and many other civil society efforts, or through the statement of resident
Ambassadors last October.

It was encouraging that both Parties remained fully engaged with the process, and
fully committed to building the sustained peace foreseen in the CAB. This was
confirmed at the most recent meeting of the Panels, in Kuala Lumpur on 10-11
February, reaffirming the Parties’commitment to stay the course of peace, and
agreeing to sustain the existing peace infrastructure and to work for the early passage
of a BBL in the next Congress. It was confirmed also in the MILF statement of 18
February, expressing disappointment at the non-passage of the BBL, but underlining
that the MILF would continue to uphold the peace process and preserve its gains, and
calling on the Bangsamoro people to remain patient and to rally behind the full
implementation of the CAB.
While Mamasapano had a considerable negative impact on public confidence in the
peace process across the nation, the failure of Congress to complete its deliberations
on the BBL (and the tone of some of these discussions) has also meant that
confidence in the peace process among the wider Moro community has taken a knock.
It is encouraging that there has been no violent reaction from the MILF to the nonpassage of the BBL (comparable to that which followed the failure of the MoA-AD in
2008). But it is possible that this setback in achieving the long-held aspirations of the
Bangsamoro could increase the risk that some young people could become more
attracted to violent extremism – a risk against which a successful conclusion to the
peace process will be the most effective vaccination.
Looking forward, it will be essential to build a path forward (a “Plan B”), to help the
next Administration hit the ground running, to work to sustain public confidence in
the process during this period of uncertainty, and to reaffirm the commitment of all
stakeholders to winning the prize of peace. We noticed for example that very little
was said about the peace process at the recent Presidential debate, and it could be
helpful if the candidates were to tell the public how the process might be carried
forward to a successful conclusion.
That said, my colleagues and I believe that this prize of peace can be attained, no
matter which administration takes office on 30 June. No administration can afford to
ignore the costs of conflict in Mindanao – the human costs, the developmental costs,
the security costs, or the risk of worsening a climate conducive to the spread of
violent extremism. The CAB will necessarily remain the cornerstone of peace, and the
best guarantee of success lies in the continued commitment of both Parties, evident at
the highest levels throughout this past year.