COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT ON THE BANGSAMORO : Peace at Last, It Seems, But Can It Confront Climate Change Completely?

Elpidio V. Peria
30 March 2014

The week that just passed was historic on two counts- the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last 27 March and the Working Group II meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which met in Yokohama, Japan from 25 to 29 March 2014, to review line by line the international body’s assessment of recent scientific literature on the global trends and impacts of climate change.

Given that the areas in the Philippines that are at high risk from the impacts of climate change are in the provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (from Greenpeace’s 2007 Study, the top 20 provinces in the Philippines which are vulnerable to a one meter sea level rise are with the rank in square brackets – Sulu[1]; Basilan [6]; Tawi-tawi [12] and Maguindanao [20]) , which may soon be covered by the CAB if the plebiscite to be held there would ratify the implementing law of the CAB, this post will then look at the recent CAB and analyze whether what is in the text of the CAB would adequately prepare the Government that will soon govern and manage the Bangsamoro to deal with the challenges of climate change.

From the post online of The Yomiuri Shimbun dated today 30 March 2014, the Working Group II of IPCC that met in Yokohama agreed in their report that coral reefs and Arctic sea ice have already suffered irreversible damage due to climate change. The loss of Arctic sea ice can only result eventually to higher water levels along the coasts of island-states like the Philippines.

But first things first – the CAB, from the text found in the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) consists of the scanned pages of what appears to be the document signed by the MILF and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) panels witnessed by Pnoy and Malaysian PM Najib Razak. It is actually a compilation of all agreements entered into by the GPH with the MILF starting from the General Cessation of Hostilities signed last 18 July 1997 when negotiations started until it ended last 25 January 2014 with the Annex on Normalization and the Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation.

Of course, as the dignitaries during the signing of the CAB stated, the work on realizing the CAB has just begun, there is still work to be undertaken towards crafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be further reviewed and approved by the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives and we will still wait with bated breath what the left-out Muslim groups will do, from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter’s Umbra Kato and MNLF’s Nur Misuari to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate, not to mention the non-Muslim politicos like the Pinols and the Climacos who questioned a similar agreement before (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MOA-AD), nothing is certain on this issue until the result of the final plebiscite on this issue is reported out and accepted by all concerned.

Notwithstanding this, the relevant part of the CAB for our purposes today involve the sharing or division of powers between the national government and the Bangsamoro or the Annex on Power Sharing signed 8 December 2013 and there the matter of disaster risk reduction and management is item 13 out of 14 items where the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall exercise concurrent powers and it specifically states :

       The Bangsamoro Government shall have primary responsibility over disaster risk              reduction and management within the Bangsamoro. There shall be cooperation and          coordination among relevant Central Government and Bangsamoro Government              agencies on disaster risk reduction and management.

Looking at the fifty-eight (58) items on the enumerated exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro, there is no other mention there of items related to disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation though if one will look at the sectors where possible climate change adaptation activities may be done, it seems the Bangsamoro Government has exclusive power over it, particularly in areas relating to agriculture, livestock and food security, science and technology, environment, parks, forest management, wildlife nature reserves and conservation, inland waters, management, regulation and conservation of all fishery, marine and aquatic resources within the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction.

Now, to go to the question of today’s post, are the powers given in the CAB to the Bangsamoro Government adequate or in our alliterative title, complete, to enable the soon-to-be established Bangsamoro Government to deal with the challenges like, for example, the irreversible damage of the coral reefs and the inevitable sea level rise that will unavoidably result from the meltage of Arctic sea ice, if the IPCC Working Group II report is to be taken as a guide for action for the immediate future?

From what we have seen in the text of the CAB cited earlier, it is clear the answer is in the negative. For one, to take action to adapt to these possible impacts of climate change, to have a disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) mindset is not enough. Even DRRM experts attach the term climate change adaptation (CCA) to their all-important disaster risk reduction (DRR) template. Nowhere is this climate change adaptation concept and terminology to be found in the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government.

If one scrutinizes the Annex on Power-Sharing further, there is an all-encompassing exclusive power of the Bangsamoro Government to promote the general welfare of the people in the Bangsamoro (item no. 58 states : “establishment or creation of other institutions, policies and laws for the general welfare of the people in the Bangsamoro”). This reserve exclusive power of the Bangsamoro Government could help fill in the gap to deal with the challenge of climate change especially in the missing area of climate change adaptation and this will enable the said Government to train its own people to do climate change adaptation activities appropriate to the context and circumstances of the people in the Bangsamoro.

The work on this challenge should start now, even at this stage where the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority is being set up and the Bangsamoro Basic Law is still being drafted.



banners festooned along Tamontaka Bridge in the boundary of  Datu Odin Sinsuat and Cotabato City, 30 March 2014

banners festooned along Tamontaka Bridge in the boundary of
Datu Odin Sinsuat and Cotabato City, 30 March 2014


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