Philippine President Benigno Aquino III had vowed to have the Philippine Congress pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of 2014. Pic: AP

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended their 10-day discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Sunday. They released a joint statement saying they “reached agreement on substantial portions of the documents.”

The two panels convened in the southern Philippine city Davao after the MILF expressed disappointment over what it described as several deviations from the original peace document embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which was signed in March this year.

The MILF agreed to end its four-decade war in favor of greater autonomy and more economic and political power, including access to and substantial control of vital resources in provinces dominated by Muslims.

The peace panels from both the government and the MILF admitted however that there were still “remaining challenges and unsettled issues” which will be brought back to their principals “for further guidance.”

They did not elaborate on which issues remain unresolved.

But Mindanews said among the contentious issues is “the delineation of power under the categories exclusive, reserved and concurrent.”

The MILF, it further reported, said without it, the future of the Bangsamoro entity will be uncertain.

Both panels nevertheless also expressed confidence that the final draft of the proposed law will be ready by August 18.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III earlier vowed to have the Philippine Congress pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of 2014.

Aquino and MILF chair Murad ‘Al Haj’ Ibrahim had already met twice – both in Japan – in efforts to fast track the peace process.

But last week, Philippine Senate President Franklin Drilon said he could no longer guarantee the passage of the law this year.

The BBL is supposed to carve out a new autonomous region in Mindanao to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was created by the 1996 Jakarta Peace Accord.

Mohaqer Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel and head of the Bangsmoro Transition Authority that drafted the proposed BBL and Professor Miriam Coronel, head of the Philippine peace panel, cautioned against portraying a doomsday scenario and failure of the peace process.

Iqbal said there is no other way to end the war in Mindanao but the peace process.

More than 150,000 people were killed and more than two million Filipinos were displaced when war broke out between the Philippine government and Moro secessionists in the 1970s. The conflict dragged on until the peace agreement was signed in March this year.

In the meantime, two peace agreements were also signed between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF in the early 1980s and denounced the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Peace Accord, both of which were signed by Prof. Nur Misuari