PH, Turkey agree to coordinate on all engagements with Bangsamoro

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 27) — The Philippines and Turkey have agreed to coordinate all engagements with the government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin flared up over meetings between Turkish officials and BARMM Chief Minister Ahod "Murad" Ebrahim.

Locsin met with Turkish Ambassador Artemiz Sümer "to clear up the misunderstanding" on the meetings which happened in Turkey's capital Ankara last week.

"We both agreed to continue to coordinate all engagements with BARMM together. I reaffirmed to my good friend Ambassador Sümer that my affection for Turkey has only increased with the swift resolution of this issue," he tweeted.

This was a swift turn of events after Locsin tweeted that he is filing a diplomatic protest and even threatened to propose to break diplomatic ties with Turkey over Ebrahim's meetings with Turkish officials, which the Department of Foreign Affairs wanted postponed.

But BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimnbo said Locsin should have raised this with the Inter-governmental Relations Body which first met last December 16.

In an earlier tweet that has been deleted, Locsin posted a summary of points on the visit of Ebrahim to Turkey, which stated that Turkish national agencies expressed interest in entering into formal agreements or steering committees with the BARMM, instead of the Philippine government.

The document also stated that there is a “lack of reference” to the Philippine government’s role in the peace process or on any of the topics discussed during the meetings.

According to captions on photos posted on Ebrahim's Facebook page last week, Turkish Deputy Foreign Ministers Sedat Önal and Yavuz Selim Kiran discussed with the BARMM chief challenges faced by the Bangsamoro leadership during the transition process.

In a separate meeting, Turkish officials also "strongly committed future partnerships with the Bangsamoro leadership to sustain the Bangsamoro Region's socio-economic development and other endeavors that will help uplift the status of the Bangsamoro people."

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run international news agency, Ebrahim said the BARMM is looking to Turkey for the establishment of universities and schools in the region. They are also looking to the country for funding for scholarships.

"We always look at Turkey as our mentor, our big brother. We always pray that our relationship with Turkey — the government, and also the people — will continue to prosper. We see that it is very, very important that we cultivate the relationship we have with the government and with the people," said Ebrahim, who used to be known by his nom de guerre Al Haj Murad Ebrahim before he became BARRM Chief Minister.

He also urged countries to invest in the BARMM during the 28th International Congress of Muslim Communities Union, hosted by the Turkey-based Economic and Social Research Center, Anadolu Agency reported.

The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns initially recommended that the meeting be postponed as “the information on the meeting/visit did not go through the proper vetting process,” the document showed.

However, the summary of points said the meeting had already happened when the DFA’s Office for European Affairs (OEA) asked the Turkish Embassy in Manila to postpone it. Raul Hernandez, Manila’s envoy to Ankara, was also only invited to the meetings upon the DFA’s request, the document added.

Raul Hernandez, Manila’s envoy to Ankara, was also only invited to the meetings upon the DFA’s request, the document added. Sinarimbo, however, said the Philippines' consul general represented Manila in all meetings of Ebrahim with Ankara.

The document initially released by Locsin on Twitter said Turkey “thought it was okay” to invite Ebrahim to official meetings as he had authority to travel.

According to the document, Ebrahim met with Turkish Deputy Ministers for Foreign Affairs, and officials from the Turkish Coordination and Cooperation Agency, the Office of the President for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, and the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority from December 13 to 15.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law, which created the BARMM, allows the autonomous region’s chief minister to contract domestic and foreign loans, subject to the approval of a majority of its parliament.

The law also allows the BARMM government to accept “donations, contributions, grants, bequests, or gifts, in cash or in kind, from domestic or foreign sources.” However, grants and donations from foreign countries must be cleared and approved by the President since diplomacy and foreign affairs are handled by the national government.

Establishing and maintaining foreign relations is not among the powers of the BARMM government under the law.

"A sovereign state has only one armed forces and one ministry of foreign affairs to handle all foreign matters. All. Tens of thousands of Filipino soldiers gave their lives in Mindanao for that principle," Locsin said in a tweet.

Turkey is among the members of the International Contact Group which supports the peace process between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front , and of the Peace Committee for South Philippines, which backs the peace process between the Philippine government and Moro National Liberation Front.