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Q & A ON THE MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT ON THE ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
 
 
by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.

 
 

What is the MOA-AD in the MILF-GRP Peace Process?

 
     
 

(First of a series)

 
 

1. What is the MOA-AD?

 
 


It is the Memorandum of Agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines that consists of statements agreed upon by consensus between the peace panels of both parties. It deals with Concepts and Principles, Territory, Resources, Governance of the Ancestral Domain of the Bangsamoro.

 
 

2. What is the Bangsamoro people?

 
 


According to the MOA, the Bangsamoro people “refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization and their descendants whether mixed or of full native blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the indigenous people shall be respected.”


 
 

3. What is the Bangsamoro homeland?

 
 


Historically the Bangsamoro homeland consisted of the territory under the control or influence of the Moro Sultanates. But now as described by the MOA, the Bangsamoro ancestral domain would only include the present territorial territory of the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) as its core and additional barangays in Region IX, XII, and Palawan. More than 700 barangays outside ARMM would be restored to the ancestral domain, subject to plebiscite within 12 months after the signing of the MOA. More towns would be included, again subject to plebiscite after 25 years. Moreover, this Bangsamoro ancestral domain would consist of land, waters, seas, air, and other resources.

 
 

4. What is the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE)?

 
 


The territory described above would have a juridical personality. It is a juridical entity that would have its own form of government and would exercise authority and jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

 
 

5. How will the BJE relate to the Republic of the Philippines?

 
 


The MOA is silent about the issue whether or not the JBE is part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines. Instead it recognizes “the Central Government,” and establishes “associative relationship and associative arrangments” between BJE and GRP, as well as “shared authority over territory” “shared responsibility” “sharing of resources,” etc., with a period of transition specifying the relationship. But the MOA also states that “The Parties shall faithfully comply with their commitment to the associative arrangements upon entry into force of the Comprehensive Compact.” Therefore, it may be understood that the “relationship of associative arrangements” will continue even after the JBE shall have been “fully entrenched and established in the basic law of the BJE.”

 
 

6. Will private owners lose their properties in the BJE?

 
 


The MOA expressly enjoins that “Vested proprietary rights upon the entrenchment of the BJE shall be recognized and respected subject to paragraph 9 of the strand on Resources.” Paragraph 9 of the strand of Resources refers to forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining concessions, mineral production and Sharing Agreements, Industrial Forest Management Agreements, etc. By such reference, privately owned farms and other properties would be respected by the BJE.

 
 

7. What changes took place through the years in the Bangsamoro ancestral domain?

 
 


a. To answer the question and to have a better understanding of the MOA-AD, we need to have a quick recall of history. Islam arrived in the Philippines 200 years before Christianity arrived. Eventually and before the Spaniards came a regime of sultans began. From that time on the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over their ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away. The Bangsamoro people came under the control of the Americans. The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain.

b. But even when the Americans gave independence to the Philippines, many of the Bangsamoro people continued to assert their claim to self-determination and sovereignty rather than be under the authority of the Philippine government. Successive waves of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained land titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people.

c. The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP), with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Mindanao people, with a minority of Muslim and IPs. In other words the Bangsamoro became a minority in their own ancestral domain. Difference in concepts regarding land ownership also contributed to these major changes in the ancestral Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

 
 

8. How does the MOA-AD respond to the loss of ancestral domain?

 
 


The MOA-AD restores a certain self-determination and sovereignty to the Bangsamoro people in their own homeland. Because of historical development since the 1900s the Bangsamoro ancestral domain/homeland is no longer of the same extent over which the sultanates once held sway. It is now limited territorially to what is described in #3 above. The MOA-AD also follows the principle that the IPRA law grants to the Indigenous Peoples, i.e., that their ancestral domain is not part of the public domain. The many details regarding concepts and principles, territory, resources and governance remain subject of negotiations in view of a Comprehensive Peace Pact. The concrete type of governance that would be established by and in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity would be determined by a basic law. Ultimately the changes regarding territory will depend on the Congress of the Philippine and peoples’ referendum.

 
 

August 6, 2008

 
  Source: http://www.cbcpnews.com/?q=node/4139
Used with permission by the author.
 
 
 
     
     
 
  ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
Q&A on the Memorandum of Agreement
 
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
 
  Copyright 2011 Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication