BMR revival mooted amid arbitral row

The prevailing indifference of both Malaysia and the Philippines over the $14.9 billion arbitral award by an international tribunal may revive the dormant declaration of the independence of Mindanao and Sabah which was shelved by the Moro National Liberation Front after President Duterte assumed as President in 2016, a Tribune source said yesterday.

“The decision of the international tribunal to award $14.9 billion to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu has actually resurrected the long-dormant declaration of the descendants of Sulu Sultan and Palawan now pending in the United Nations,” the source said.

The source said if President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos decides to put the arbitral court decision on the back burner, the petition to declare the independence of Sabah and Sulu before the United Nations committee on decolonization may proceed.

In August 2013, the MNLF central committee declared Davao City as the capital of the Bangsa Moro Republik in a petition under the authority of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 that seeks the granting of independence to colonized countries.

“The petition is now pending before the United Nations,” the source said.

MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari gave orders to freeze all political moves on the Declaration of Independence with respect to former President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the proclamation of independence in July 2013, Misuari said a separate state covering Mindanao, Palawan, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, including the contested territory of Sabah and Sarawak will constitute the BMR.

It was in Davao City where Misuari first raised the BMR flag before the Zamboanga siege in September 2013.

Misuari, however, ordered the shelving of MNLF’s petition to pave the way for President Duterte’s move for the shift of the form of government from unitary to federal which the secessionist group supported.

“No more political activities related to independence in the petition to the UN,” the source quoted Misuari as saying.

The pronouncement came hours after the Congress’ bicameral conference committee passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which replaced the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao with a new entity called Bangsa Moro.

“The MNLF declared the independence of territories of the Bangsa Moro People occupied by Malaysia and the Philippines,” the source said.

MNLF included Sabah and Sarawak in the BMR because the said territories were part of the Sultanate of Sulu long before Malaysia became a sovereign country.

Kosovo as model

The source said MNLF had renounced war and is pursuing a peaceful strategy similar to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia considered the Kosovo secession illegal and sought international validation from the International Court of Justice which said the declaration did not violate international law.

The source said that the declaration of Sabah and Sarawak as part of BMR practically restore the historic and proprietary rights of the Sultanate of Sulu which up to this time is being recognized by Malaysia.

“The MNLF is just reasserting the rights of the people of Sulu over their ancestral land,” the source added.

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