Aquino’s Sona: It’s a work in progress

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Sona a work in progress. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) is still “a work in progress.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda is keeping the public guessing about the contents of the President’s fourth Sona.

“I can very well confidently and categorically say that. More or less, it’s a work in progress,” was all Lacierda could tell the media at a briefing on Wednesday, refusing to give a preview of the President’s most important annual speech to the nation.

He joked that the Sona would be “more than one page—I can assure you (that).”

However, Lacierda denied that the wealth-sharing deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was rushed in time for the Sona.

“Both sides were trying to come up with a doable, deliverable wealth-sharing agreement and at no instance did the State of the Nation Address ever come up in the discussions. It was so far removed. It was never even discussed. I can assure you of that because I was present at the negotiations,” said Lacierda.

Lacierda had accompanied Peace Process Adviser Teresita Deles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the government and MILF panels signed the revenue generation and wealth sharing deal late Saturday.

The deal is part of the annexes to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in 2012.

The Annex on revenue generation and wealth sharing is one of the four annexes that, together with the FAB, will complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

The other annexes, which deal with power-sharing and normalization, are still being discussed, while the annex on transitional arrangements and modalities was signed last February.

Details of the negotiations

Lacierda explained that finding a political solution to the decades-long secessionist war in Mindanao was the compelling reason behind the six-day negotiations that ended in a deal.

“We were discussing the details of the negotiations. We were discussing the provisions in the negotiations. So to those who are saying it was signed because of Sona, that’s a very unfair accusation given the amount of work done by Chairman (Miriam) Ferrer (and members of her panel),” said Lacierda.

He was referring to Senen Bacani, Yasmin Busran-Lao and Ramon Piang Sr., an alternate member.

“It is an injustice to the hard work that the panel, the President and the Cabinet poured into in coming up with the wealth-sharing agreement as we see it now,” said Lacierda.

According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the agreed sharing formula on taxing powers allows that 25 percent of the “taxes, fees and charges collected in the Bangsamoro, other than tariff and custom duties” would go to the central government, while 75 percent, including the shares of the local government units, would go to the Bangsamoro Government.

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